Support or suspend? Exploring European citizens’ support for democracy in times of democratic backsliding

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The global landscape of democracy has witnessed a concerning trend of democratic backsliding in recent years. Scholars have noted signs of increasing fatigue, growing scepticism, and superficial adherence to democratic norms and principles. Paradoxically, despite the challenges faced by democratic systems, most citizens continue to express support for democracy, particularly in Western societies. This apparent paradox calls for a deeper exploration of the factors and dynamics that shape individuals' perceptions and attitudes toward democracy. Support for democracy is a critical factor in the sustainability and resilience of democratic systems. Research into support for democracy often faces the challenge of assessing “true support” for democracy. To overcome the methodological challenge of assessing "true support" for democracy, this study adopts an alternative approach by examining citizens' willingness to suspend democracy. This research will look into the factors that influence individuals' willingness to suspend democracy. The following potential explanatory variables will be examined: partisanship, socialization and deprivation. The results show that relevant factors that influence citizens’ willingness to suspend democracy are: income level, authoritarian socialization and right-wing partisanship. In addition, it can be concluded that support for authoritarian alternatives such as a strong leader or experts is related to willingness to suspend democracy. Given the significance of public support for democracy in maintaining the resilience and sustainability of democratic systems, it is important to understand citizens' support for democracy and the factors influencing it. By identifying the drivers of support or lack thereof, strategies can be developed to strengthen democratic institutions and values.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen