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Open Access Publications from the University of California

`George Washington Must Go': The Causes and Effects of Great Power Electoral Interventions

  • Author(s): Levin, Dov H.
  • Advisor(s): Stein, Arthur A
  • et al.
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This study assesses the causes and effects of partisan great power interventions in the elections of other countries. Such interventions have been a quite common phenomenon extending back to the beginnings of competitive elections and even including the 1796 U.S. Presidential elections (the source of this study's title). Since World War II, such interventions have become quite common: a dataset I constructed of U.S. and Soviet/Russian electoral interventions between 1946 and 2000 finds that there were such interventions in approximately one of every nine competitive national level executive elections during this period. In today's world, in which competitive national level elections are a significant feature of domestic politics in more than half of the states in the international system, partisan electoral interventions will likely become an even more prominent tool in the great powers' arsenal. Nevertheless, there has been scant scholarly research on this topic.

As for the causes of electoral interventions this study argues that electoral interventions usually occur when two concurrent conditions exist. The first is the consent and cooperation of a significant domestic actor within the target with a proposed intervention by the great power. The second is that the intervener sees its interests as being endangered by the very different and inflexible preferences held by another significant candidate/party within the target. As for the electoral consequences of electoral intervention, this study argues that they usually significantly increase the electoral chances of the aided candidate and that overt interventions are more effective than covert interventions. Likewise, electoral interventions will be less helpful to the aided party/candidate in founding elections than in later elections.

These hypotheses are tested using multiple methods. The first argument concerning the causes of electoral interventions is tested largely through the in-depth analysis of four case studies (utilizing archival documents) in which such interventions were done or seriously considered by a great power chosen out of the abovenoted dataset of electoral interventions. The second set of hypotheses, about the electoral consequences of such interventions, is tested in two different ways. The first is a large N statistical study utilizing a new dataset of all U.S. and USSR/Russian partisan electoral interventions between 1946 and 2000 constructed by the author. The second is a single election level examination of the electoral consequences of such interventions (utilizing exit polls etc.) in four select intervention cases. Utilizing these methods, this study finds strong evidence in support of the arguments presented here as to both questions.

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This item is under embargo until September 4, 2020.