Gauging Preference for Democracy in Absence of Free Speech

39 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2023

See all articles by Josie I Chen

Josie I Chen

National Taiwan University

Louis Putterman

Brown University

Diego Ramos-Toro

Dartmouth College

Date Written: July 28, 2023


Whether people prefer a democratic system is difficult to judge when speaking freely carries personal dangers. We introduce an incentivized experimental task to reveal implicit preference for democracy without referencing politically-sensitive terms. We validate the task with data from émigrés from Greater China living in North America, demonstrating our experimental tool’s ability to gauge favorability toward democracy when participants come from backgrounds where eliciting such views is challenging. We corroborate the task’s accuracy and its ability to uncover patterns in democratic sentiment with data from a representative US sample and from a diverse set of participants in China.

Keywords: democracy, autocracy, experiment, survey, preferences, China

JEL Classification: C90, P00, D72, D90

Suggested Citation

Chen, Josie I and Putterman, Louis and Ramos-Toro, Diego, Gauging Preference for Democracy in Absence of Free Speech (July 28, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Josie I Chen

National Taiwan University ( email )

1 Sec. 4, Roosevelt Road
Taipei 106, 106

Louis Putterman

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Diego Ramos-Toro (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College

Department of Economics
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

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