Dissatisfied Democrats: A Matter of Representation or Performance?
Research on political support around the world has demonstrated massive support for democracy as the underlying principle of governance. At the same time many citizens express dissatisfaction with the way democracy works in practice. People who believe in the principles of democracy, while at the same time expressing discontent with the performance of the political system are often referred to as critical citizens, or dissatisfied democrats. However, the phenomenon of dissatisfied democrats has not received as much empirical attention as it has been discussed theoretically. This paper sets out to empirically investigate and explain the gap between the strong support for democratic principles and the weaker support for the actual functioning of democratic governance, which could be seen as democratic deficit both on the micro- and the micro-level, with a focus on new and old democracies since different types of democracies face different problems and challenges. The paper empirically tests two contrasting explanatory perspectives. The first argues that the reasons for the democratic deficit are to be found on the input side of the political system, and that the solution lies in improving the representative institutions in contemporary democracies. The contrasting argument states that the sources of political support and legitimacy are to be found at the output side of the political system, where the quality of government in terms of non-corrupt and impartial institutions play the pivotal role. The results of the empirical analysis suggest that both explanations are relevant, but factors relating to the input side of democracy seem to be of somewhat greater importance for the likelihood of being a dissatisfied democrat, and that this is particularly the case in established democracies.
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