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Filip Milacic: Do European Voters Cling to Democracy Under All Circumstances?

Our Research Affiliate Filip Milacic argues in his post on LSE EUROPP Blog that democratic ideals can be overridden by partisan and group loyalties, which may cause voters to overlook the actions of politicians that undermine democracy.

However, that does not mean voters do not value democracy as a form of government. In fact, it is still favored by many, he writes. According to a survey carried out in Estonia, Germany, Poland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine by the researcher and his colleagues, for most of the respondents it is very important to live in a democratically governed country. And not only that, most people also value democratic principles enough to punish political candidates who violate them. So, why people who favor democracy vote for political actors who subvert it? 

Although citizens care about democracy and are willing to defend it, there are many circumstances in which they stop acting as guardians of it and tolerate undemocratic behavior. For example, according to the survey, there are some factors that favor a strong willingness to condone undemocratic behavior from candidates of their favorite party and advocates of their favorite identity-related policies. To explain such behavior, some scholars have hypothesized that greater polarization in politics increases voters' willingness to tolerate undemocratic behavior: people may be more inclined to ignore democratic violations than lose what they have achieved. However, the survey data only partially confirms this argument.

Either way, there are plenty reasons to be concerned about the future of democracy, Filip Milacic argues. The research deepens in two of them: established democracies have showed to be vulnerable and susceptible to democratic setbacks induced by leaders who disobey democratic norms in the name of group interests; and a latent desire in every constituency for candidates who promise to protect group interests, even at the expense of democracy.

Read the full article here.

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