How Europeans View and Evaluate Democracy
Based on a new dataset of the European Social Survey covering twenty-nine European and neighboring countries, this volume presents how, in 2012, Europeans view and evaluate democracy—their conceptions of democracy, how they assess the quality of democracy in their own country, and to what extent they consider their country’s democracy as legitimate. In a nutshell, the study shows that Europeans share a common view of liberal democracy, which is complemented by elements of social and direct democracy. However, the level of the citizens’ demands in terms of democracy varies considerably across Europe and is related to their assessments of democracy: the worse the quality of democracy in a given country, the higher the respective demands on democracy. Overall, Europeans are quite satisfied with liberal democracy, rather neutral with regard to direct democracy, but very dissatisfied with social democracy. The real democratic deficit in Europe concerns the social democratic vision of democracy. The analysis of the determinants of democratic views and evaluations shows that they depend on the political and economic (but less on the cultural) context conditions.
The chapter introduces three evaluation indices which correspond to the indices for the citizens’ views of democracy. The resulting indices are compared to established measures for the quality of democracy—World Bank Governance Indices and Democracy Barometer indicators. This comparison reveals a close correspondence between our aggregate subjective evaluation scores of the quality of democracy in the various countries with the assessments by existing indices. The bulk of the chapter then analyzes the reciprocal relationship between views and evaluations, at the aggregate and at the individual level. The results suggest that it is not so much rising aspirations which account for the relationship between views and evaluations, but much rather mechanisms of dissatisfaction and sensitivity which lead the more maximalist democrats to evaluate their country’s democracy more negatively, and vice versa.
This chapter summarizes the detailed empirical results of the volume. We have found very strong evidence that the basic principles of liberal democracy are universally endorsed across Europe, and that Europeans also embrace direct and social democracy. The legitimacy in terms of liberal and direct democracy is high across Europe, the real democratic deficit in Europe concerns the social democratic vision of democracy. It concludes with a few ideas about where we could go from here in the empirical analysis of the ESS dataset on which it is based and which is available to the general public. Future research should analyze the individual items in more detail, study the consequences of the various views and evaluations and link our data to those on personal and social well-being in the same dataset. Finally, our data should be expanded by introducing comparable items in national surveys allowing for country-specific comparisons over time.
This chapter introduces the basic model of liberal democracy, which constitutes the focus of the entire study, as well as the two models going beyond this basic model—social and direct democracy. In addition, it situates our approach with respect to the rich literature on the study of democratic support, it provides an introduction to our explanatory strategy, and it provides an overview of the content of the volume. The discussion of our approach introduces the basic distinctions between views, evaluations, and legitimacy beliefs, while the presentation of the explanatory strategies first distinguishes between individual and context characteristics, and then focuses on political and economic (as opposed to cultural) characteristics of the context.
This chapter analyzes the structure of Europeans’ views of democracy, constructs three indices for democracy—for the three visions of liberal, social, and direct democracy, and provides a typology of democrats. It shows that the basic principles of liberal democracy are universally endorsed across Europe. Citizens across Europe share the same framework of the basic model of liberal democracy, but differ greatly as to the number of features they include in their vision of liberal democracy. The two visions beyond the basic model are closely associated with the basic model and serve as complements to it. We can safely conclude that a majority of Europeans have visions of democracy that include far more than the “realistic” minimum of the liberal democratic model, and that the citizens of the newly emerging democracies in Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe are the most acutely aware of what it takes to make democracy work.