The Political and Moral Economies of Democratic Support
36 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2020
Date Written: February 20, 2020
Popular support for democracy is the lifeblood of stable democratic systems. Yet existing research is poorly suited for explaining why democratic support falls and how it might rise again, because it uses static research designs, and identifies the sources of support as being fairly static factors such as institutions and political cultures. In contrast, this paper proposes and tests two explanations for changes in democratic support: a political-economic theory focusing on fluctuations in the effectiveness of governance, and a moral-economic theory focusing on variations in the impartiality of governance and political equality. Using dynamic, time-series, cross-sectional tests, we find that the most important drivers of changes in support are moral rather than political-economic. Preserving the legitimacy of democracy, and therefore its survival, rests on the extent to which democratic governments can curb corruption, treat citizens impartially, and provide more equitable access to power across class, ethnic, and gender divides.
Keywords: support for democracy, performance legitimacy, political equality, impartial governance, corruption
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