Successful World Coups 1946-2012

Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 2:15 pm

As a post-baccalaureate fellow at the Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab (DASIL), Adam Lauretig ’13 is making it easier for others to visualize complex datasets.

Lauretig was first introduced to the Polity IV project — run by the Center for Systemic Peace — in Danielle Lussier’s political science course Democratization and the Politics of Regime Change.

Using data from the project, he’s created an interactive map illustrating successful coups d'état that occurred from 1946 to 2012. “This particular map would be useful for anyone interested in political instability or development, since it makes geographic trends in coups visible in ways that might not be apparent simply by looking at a spreadsheet, he says. “For example, the high frequency of coups in South America becomes clear, as does the fact that by the end of the Cold War, coups became less frequent.”

The map allows you to select a year or range of years to see which countries had coups during that time, or to “play” the map to view the year-to-year changes in where they coups occur. The map, Lauretig says, “does not indicate the length of the resulting regime, seeking instead to visualize frequency.”

“The most interesting part of the project was noticing trends in the data and learning more about what ArcGIS (our mapping software) could do,” says Lauretig, “I was working alone, and the data had to be put together by hand: matching coups with the shapefile (an image of the country linked to tabular data) for the country where they occurred.  What stood out to me was how a country that underwent one coup was likely to undergo another, and they often occurred within a decade of each other, suggesting that instability begets instability.”

About the Map

The map: Successful World Coups 1946-2012

The Polity IV codebook defines a coup d'état as “a forceful seizure of executive authority and office by a dissident/opposition faction within the country’s ruling or political elites that results in a substantial change in the executive leadership and the policies of the prior regime.” In a successful coup “authority must be exercised by new executive for at least one month.” 

Data compiled by:

  • Adam Lauretig '13.

GIS shapefiles created by:

  • Nils B. Weidmann,
  • Doreen Kuse, and
  • Kristian Skrede Gleditsch.

Data sources/Works cited: