Popular support is the “sine qua non of victory” in civil conflicts. Given that success depends on the ability to raise popular support it becomes extremely important to understand its determinants. In this study we provide empirical evidence that it is the degree of military control that determines the extent of popular support in civil conflicts. We first conduct a micro-level analysis with new panel data on the long-running civil conflict in Turkey, and demonstrate the significant impact rebel presence has upon state-society relations across localities and time. We then analyze the results of semi-structured interviews we had conducted with a group of experts from the conflict regions to 1 decipher the possible mechanisms behind the association we observe in the data. The interviews support our motivating theoretical argument.