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What Makes Governments Popular

59 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2016  

Sergei M. Guriev

Sciences Po; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Daniel Treisman

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: November 11, 2016


Why are some governments popular with their citizens while others get low approval ratings? International surveys show enormous variation both across countries and over time. In what we believe to be the first systematic, global, comparative study of political approval, we examine a panel of government ratings from 128 countries including both democracies and authoritarian states, over the years 2005-2014. We find that good economic performance correlates robustly with higher approval in both democracies and non-democracies. Approval also rises in presidential election years in both types of regimes. In non-democracies, information matters: greater press freedom and internet penetration are associated with lower approval, while internet censorship predicts higher approval; these variables are unrelated to approval in democracies. We found no clear relationship with repression, suggesting that if fear inflates ratings in non-democracies this may be offset by the dissatisfaction that repression also causes.

Keywords: Political Economy, Political Approval

JEL Classification: P16

Suggested Citation

Guriev, Sergei M. and Treisman, Daniel, What Makes Governments Popular (November 11, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Sergei M. Guriev (Contact Author)

Sciences Po ( email )

27 rue Saint-Guillaume
Paris Cedex 07, 75337


Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

Daniel Treisman

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science ( email )

405 Hilgard Ave.
3265 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1472
United States
650-725-8556 (Phone)
650-723-1687 (Fax)

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