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Why the name Political Terror Scale (PTS)?
The PTS was first developed in the early 1980s, well before “terrorism” took on much of its present meaning. The “terror” in the PTS refers to state-sanctioned killings, torture, disappearances and political imprisonment that the Political Terror Scale measures.
How is the Political Terror Scale to be cited?
In a Reference List cite as follows:
For a citation in the text cite all authors the first time the reference occurs. Gibney, Cornett, Wood, Haschke, Arnon, Pisanò, and Barrett (year of publication).
In all subsequent citations per paragraph, include only the surname of the first author followed by “et al.” (Latin for “and others”) and the year of publication. Gibney et al. (2020)
How are the scores computed?
The PTS is computed annually by all the principal researchers - Gibney, Wood, Cornett, Haschke and Arnon, and a group of volunteers well versed in human rights practices. The “data” for the PTS is provided by the annual reports on human rights practices that are published by Amnesty International (A), the U.S. State Department (S) and occasionally using the Human Rights Watch report (hrw). There are always at least two coders who read and code each country for each year in both the Amnesty Report and the State Department Report. The way that the system has evolved, Mark Gibney and Reed Wood each code every country every year – and several other coders also read certain assigned countries .
After each person codes (separately), the scores are then compared. In approximately 80% of the cases, the scores that each coder comes up with are exactly the same. However, when there are differences, there is invariably an informal discussion between several coders to determine how a particular score was assigned. This clears up any discrepancies between the scores.
For a detailed discussion about the coding process and the scoring system visit the Coding and Documentation section.
Since they are reporting on the same country – and for the same year – how could a country possibly get two different scores in any given year?
The first thing to note is that there is much greater agreement than disagreement. For example, based on the 2006 reports, in 2/3 of the cases the PTS score for Amnesty and the State Department was the same. And if there is a disagreement it will almost always be one level (for example, the Amnesty score is a 3 and the State Department score a 2).
However, what might cause the scores to diverge at all? It is impossible to say, but the way that AI, HRW and the U.S. State Department gather information will be different. In addition, although both are looking at human rights “practices,” they might not always be looking at the same things.
What is being measured, state violence, non-state violence – or both?
Coders are instructed to turn a blind eye towards violence by non-state actors, and that their primary goal is to measure levels of violence by the state. For example, female genital mutilation remains a widespread phenomenon in a number of countries in the world. Although this is type of “violence,” affects many people across the globe, it is not the kind of violence that is captured by the PTS, as it is carried out by non-state actors. What we are attempting to capture and measure are levels of state sanctioned or state perpetrated violence (e.g., political violence such as assassinations of political challengers or police brutality). However, what also has to be said is that in many places in the world – civil war situations in particular – state and non-state violence often go together.
What about political violence that a state engages in outside of its own territorial borders?
This is a difficult question. In coding for the United States, for example, should this score also compute American activities in Iraq? For the most part, we are only measuring political violence that a state carries out within in its own territorial borders. However, a situation such as American activities at Guantanamo simply cannot be ignored. Thus, we seek to use common sense on such matters.
What do ‘s’, ‘a’ and ‘h’ in the tables refer to?
An ‘s’ stands for the State Department, ‘a’ stands for Amnesty International and ‘h’ stands for Human Rights Watch. What this means is that in arriving at the ‘s’, score, the coders read the State Department Report for that country for that year, the ‘a’ score means that the coders are basing that score on the Amnesty International Report for that country for that year, and the ‘h’ score means that the coders are basing their score on the Human Rights Watch report of that year.
Should both scores be used – or only one? Are scores comparable substitutes?
Some scholars use both scores and compute an average, while others only use one score. We advise that researchers err on the side of caution with these data, since scores are based on different source material, and preferably choose the report they find to be more appropriate for their research. For a more detailed discussion see our post on Missingness and Comparability of Scores.
Is the Political Terror Scale the same as the Poe-Tate Scale?
There is no Poe-Tate scale as such, although Steve Poe and Neal Tate did provide much of the coding for 1976-1979. Apparently, the confusion arose because of their initials and their frequent use of the Political Terror Scale. However, all references to the Poe-Tate Scale should really be referring to the Political Terror Scale.