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It is widely believed that democracy requires public support to survive. The empirical evidence for this hypothesis is weak, however, with existing tests resting on small cross‐sectional samples and producing contradictory results. The underlying problem is that survey measures of support for democracy are fragmented across time, space, and different survey questions. In response, this article uses a Bayesian latent variable model to estimate a smooth country‐year panel of democratic support for 135 countries and up to 29 years. The article then demonstrates a positive effect of support on subsequent democratic change, while adjusting for the possible confounding effects of prior levels of democracy and unobservable time‐invariant factors. Support is, moreover, more robustly linked with the endurance of democracy than its emergence in the first place. As Lipset (1959) and Easton (1965) hypothesized over 50 years ago, public support does indeed help democracy survive.
American Journal of Political Science – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2020
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