Abstract. To what extent are variations in public attitudes and outcomes of social/economic policies caused by institutions like consociational democracy, corporatism and regimes of veto players? In dealing with this question, this paper starts from a critical review of Arend Lijphart's argument in Patterns of Democracy that consensus democracies are better, kinder and gentler democracies. I agree that consociational democracy, corporatism, and regimes with veto players have different effects on attitudes and policy outcomes – even after controlling for effects of political power distribution, as well as domestic and international contexts of policymaking. However, consociational democracy is not a ‘better, gentler and kinder’ democracy, though neither is it worse than majoritarian democracy in governing societies. Corporatism is efficient in reducing unemployment and inflation, and in expanding public receipts and the reach of the welfare state. Finally, regimes of veto players constrain expansion of public receipts. This analysis is based on data covering 22 OECD countries, 1971–1996.