Conceptualizing and measuring support for democracy : a new approach

Claassen, Christopher and Ackermann, Kathrin and Bertsou, Eri and Borba, Lucas and Carlin, Ryan E. and Cavari, Amnon and Dahlum, Sirianne and Gherghina, Sergiu and Hawkins, Darren and Lelkes, Yphtach and Magalhães, Pedro C. and Mattes, Robert and Meijers, Maurits J. and Neundorf, Anja and Oross, Dániel and Ozturk, Aykut and Sarsfield, Rodolfo and Self, Darin and Stanley, Ben and Tsai, Tsung-han and Zaslove, Andrej , and Zechmeister, Elizabeth J. (2024) Conceptualizing and measuring support for democracy : a new approach. Comparative Political Studies. ISSN 0010-4140 (In Press) (

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Much of what we know about public support for democracy is based on survey questions about “democracy,” a term that varies in meaning across countries and likely prompts uncritically supportive responses. This paper proposes a new approach to measuring support for democracy. We develop a battery of 17 survey questions that cover all eight components of liberal democracy as defined by the V-Dem project. We then ask respondents from 19 national samples to evaluate these rights and institutions. We find considerable heterogeneity across countries in how our items cohere, especially in less developed contexts. Yet, those items that are more weakly connected with general support for liberal democracy tend to reveal the influence of political events and actors, arguably indicating weaknesses in political cultures. We further identify a concise subset of seven items that provide a reliable and valid measure of support for liberal democracy across our different samples.