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: Gibney, M., Cornett, L., & Wood, R., (year of publication) Political Terror Scale 1976-2006. Date Retrieved, from the Political Terror Scale Web site: http://www.politicalterrorscale.org/ .
For a citation in the text cite all authors the first time the reference occurs. Gibney, Cornett, and Wood (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. (2008)
How are the scores computed?
The PTS is computed annually by Mark Gibney, Reed Wood 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) and the U.S. State Department (S). 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 the two main coders (Gibney and Wood) to determine how a particular score was assigned. In nearly all instances, this clears up any discrepancies between the scores. If this is not achieved, the score of a third (and even fourth) party will be relied upon.
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 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 not to turn a blind eye towards violence by non-state actors, but that their primary goal is to measure levels of violence by the state. For example, female genital mutilation remains an enormous in a number of countries in the world. Although this is “violence,” it is not the kind of violence that is captured by the PTS. What we are attempting to capture and measure are levels of state sanctioned political violence. 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' and 'a' in the tables refer to?
'S' stands for the State Department and 'A' stands for Amnesty International. What this means is that in arriving at the S score, the coders read the State Department Report for that country for that year. And the A score means that the coders are basing that score on the Amnesty International Report for that country for that year.
Should both scores be used -- or only one?
We have no answer on this. Some scholars use both scores and compute an average, while others only use one score.
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.