In the Mood for Democracy? Democratic Support as Thermostatic Opinion

42 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2018 Last revised: 20 Aug 2019

Date Written: August 21, 2019


Public support has long been thought crucial for the vitality and survival of democracy. Existing research has argued that democracy also creates its own demand: through early-years socialization and later-life learning, the presence of a democratic system coupled with the passage of time produces widespread public support for democracy. Using new panel measures of democratic mood varying over 135 countries and up to 30 years, this paper finds little evidence for such a positive feedback effect of democracy on support. Instead, it demonstrates a negative, thermostatic effect: increases in democracy depress democratic mood, while decreases cheer it. Moreover, it is increases in the liberal, counter-majoritarian aspects of democracy, 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.

Keywords: democracy, support for democracy, public opinion, mood, thermostatic model

Suggested Citation

Claassen, Christopher, In the Mood for Democracy? Democratic Support as Thermostatic Opinion (August 21, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Christopher Claassen (Contact Author)

University of Glasgow ( email )

School of Social and Political Sciences
Glasgow, G12 8QQ
United Kingdom


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