Democracy is important in western cultural history and it has increasingly been upheld as a virtue when dealing with international relations. Consequently, public political claims are often made as to the superiority of the democratic form of government over any other, and leaders have used the concept to legitimate their actions - even violent ones. This importance begs the question: What exactly are the virtues of democracy and what are the defining characteristics of the countries embodying them? Does the concept itself have intrinsic value or does this form of rule also bring tangible advantages to its peoples that other forms of government can not deliver and if so, which?
One possible consequence of democracy is postulated in the theory of the democratic peace. Research has pointed to several empirical patterns involving the behavior of different political regimes as they relate to armed conflict, with no evidence having been as strong as the near nonexistence of war between democracies.
This thesis attempts to explore whether the availability of data on democracy have an impact on the study of this phenomenon. Through a review of existing data-efforts and theory, combined with the exploration and adaptation of a new dataset, it seeks to provide the research community with a wider selection of tools to choose from when assessing the democratic peace proposition.
The empirical findings presented indicate that the data employed are indeed viable for international relations research. In addition, they point out a significant negative relationship between states having high competition in the political system through elections and the risk of experiencing the onset of international war.