When can citizen communication hinder successful revolution?

Mehdi Shadmehr, Dan Bernhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We show that when citizens are uncertain about whether a successful revolution will turn out better than the status quo, communication between citizens reduces the likelihood of successful revolution when the status quo is sufficiently bad. A bad regime faces a tradeoff: communication helps citizens to coordinate, facilitating revolution; but it also facilitates the dissemination of any negative information about the alternative to the status quo, forestalling revolution. When the regime is sufficiently bad, this latter effect dominates. This result contrasts with the literature that assumes that each citizen knows that he wants to change the regime, but he is uncertain about whether enough citizens will revolt. In such settings, communication always raises the likelihood of successful revolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-323
Number of pages23
JournalQuarterly Journal of Political Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017


  • Censorship
  • Communication
  • Media freedom
  • Regime change
  • Revolution
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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