Satisfaction with democracy: A note on a frequently used indicator in comparative politics

Authors


Address for correspondence: Jonas Linde, Department of Social and Political Sciences, Örebro University, S-701 82 Örebro, Sweden
Tel.: +46 19 303585; E-mail: jonas.linde@sam.oru.se

Abstract

Abstract. This article offers a critical investigation of one indicator of support for democracy frequently used by comparativists. Departing from a theoretical multidimensional model of political support, and drawing on large-scale public opinion surveys, we argue that the survey item ‘satisfaction with the way democracy works’ is not an indicator of support for the principles of democracy. Rather, it is an item that taps the level of support for the way the democratic regime works in practice. At the same time, we show that this item is far from a perfect indicator of support for the performance of a democratic regime, since it is highly sensitive to different institutional contexts. By demonstrating empirically some of the problems involved when trying to asses the levels of support for democracy in post-communist Europe, we argue for a more cautious approach when analysing problems of legitimacy in processes of democratic consolidation. We also advocate the need for multiple indicators when analysing political support.

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