Changing Mass Priorities: The Link between Modernization and Democracy
Perspectives on Politics. 2010. № 8(2). С. 551-567.
A revised version of modernization theory implies that certain cultural variables (deeply-instilled attitudes among the public of asociety) play an important role in democratization—and considerable empirical evidence supports this claim. Nevertheless, thesevariables are rarely used in econometric analysis of democratization. Why? One important reason is a tendency to view subjectivemass orientations as volatile, relatively “soft” data. Analyzing data from many Large-N comparative survey projects, this articledemonstrates that: (1) certain mass attitudes that are linked with modernization constitute attributes of given societies that are fullyas stable as standard social indicators; (2) when treated as national-level variables, these attitudes seem to have predictive powercomparable to that of widely-used social indicators in explaining important societal-level variables such as democracy; (3) nationallevel mean scores are a legitimate social indicator; and (4) one gets maximum analytic leverage by analyzing data from the full rangeof societies. We ﬁnd numerous strong correlations between these subjective indicators and important societal attributes such asdemocracy, which suggest that causal linkages exist—but we do not attempt to demonstrate them here. Previous research has testedsome of these linkages, ﬁnding support for causal interpretations, but conclusive tests of all the linkages shown here would requireseveral book-length treatments. We brieﬂy review some of the evidence supporting the conclusion that modernization leads toenduring mass attitudinal changes that are conducive to democracy.