Authoritarian Attitudes, Democracy, and Policy Preferences among Latin American Elites


  • Thanks to Stanley Feldman, Barbara Geddes, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. Any remaining errors are the authors' alone.

Daniel Stevens is assistant professor of political science, Hartwick College, One Hartwick Drive, Oneonta, NY 13820 ( Benjamin Bishin is assistant professor of political science, 314 Jenkins Building, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124 ( Robert Barr is assistant professor of political science and international affairs, University of Mary Washington, 1301 College Avenue, Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401 (


This article examines the prevalence and consequences of authoritarian attitudes among elites in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela. We focus on the connection between antidemocratic elite attitudes and support for democracy; the causes and effects of authoritarian attitudes among elites and their implications for authoritarianism; and the impact of authoritarian attitudes beyond social policy preferences to other policy areas that have indirect implications for order. Contrary to some of the literature, we find that antidemocratic attitudes affect elites' support for democracy. Our analysis also speaks to the debate on the origins of authoritarianism. Much of the evidence supports Altemeyer's notion that perceived threat raises levels of authoritarianism, rather than Feldman's contention that threat strengthens the influence of authoritarian attitudes. Finally, we demonstrate that there is a broader influence of authoritarian attitudes on economic policy preferences, but only where those policies appear to have implications for social order.