Previous research has suggested that leaders of democratic regimes are particularly willing to contribute troops to United Nations peacekeeping operations because backing ‘liberal’ peacekeeping allows them to support the diffusion of liberal institutions. However, evidence used to sustain this argument is based on contribution patterns during the decade of peacekeeping that followed the Cold War. In this article, we argue that there has been a reversal in the relative willingness of democratic and non-democratic governments to provide the United Nations with peacekeepers since then. Specifically, we propose that the introduction of more ‘robust’ forms of peacekeeping during the 1990s has rendered democratic governments reluctant to contribute large numbers of peacekeepers to United Nations operations because elected leaders are now concerned that voters may object to the deployment of national troops to high-risk humanitarian missions in which there is no clear national interest. By contrast, non-democratic leaders partly discount public opinion because they are less reliant on popular support to retain power. Thus, when non-democrats see that contributing troops to United Nations peacekeeping will bring them reputational and/or resource benefits, they are willing to contribute peacekeepers — and on a large scale. We test our claims quantitatively. We find that since the 1990s, democratic governments have remained more likely than non-democrats to contribute some troops to United Nations peacekeeping operations, but non-democratic governments have been more likely to make large-scale contributions. We also find that governments have been especially reluctant to make sizeable contributions to peacekeeping when elections have been on the horizon.