In the Mood for Democracy? Democratic Support as Thermostatic Opinion

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Authors Christopher Claassen
Journal/Conference Name AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Public support is crucial for the survival of democracy. Existing research has argued that democracy fortunately appears to create its own demand: the presence of a democratic system plus the passage of time produces a supportive public as citizens learn about democracy and the freedoms and responsive government it provides. Using new panel measures of democratic mood varying over 134 countries and up to 30 years, this paper finds no such effect. Instead, it demonstrates a thermostatic effect of democracy on support: increases in democracy depress democratic mood, while increases cheer it. Moreover, it is increases in the minoritarian aspects of democracy – i.e., protections of individual and minority rights – not the majoritarian, electoral aspects that provoke this backlash from citizens. These novel results challenge existing research on support for democracy, but also reconcile this research with the literature on macro-opinion.
Date of publication 2019
Code Programming Language R
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