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Satisfaction with Democracy and the Winner/Loser Debate: The Role of Policy Preferences and Past Experience

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 August 2011

Abstract

Previous authors have found greater political support among electoral winners than losers, but they define winners and losers at a single time point, and employ a dichotomous categorization that neglects possible variations within each group. This study considers both the past history of winning or losing and the impact of ideological distance from the government on a political support indicator – satisfaction with democracy. Using a multilevel model covering thirty-one countries, the authors show that the relationship between winner/loser status and satisfaction with democracy has a marginal dynamic nature and a policy content. Among present losers, previous experience of victory assuaged dissatisfaction, while among those presenting a consolidated ‘winning’ record, only high ideological proximity to the current government boosted political support.

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Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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References

1 See Anderson, Christopher J. and Tverdova, Yuliya V., ‘Winners, Losers and Attitudes about Government in Contemporary Democracies’, International Political Science Review, 22 (2001), 321338CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Anderson, Christopher J., Blais, André, Bowler, Shaun, Donovan, Todd and Listhaug, Ola, eds, Losers’ Consent: Elections and Democratic Legitimacy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Moehler, Devra C., ‘Critical Citizens and Submissive Subjects: Election Losers and Winners in Africa’, British Journal of Political Science, 39 (2009), 345366CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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4 See Dalton, Russell J., ‘Political Support in Advanced Industrial Democracies’, in Norris, ed., Critical Citizens, pp. 57–77Google Scholar.

5 See Norris, Critical Citizens.

6 See Moehler, ‘Critical Citizens and Submissive Subjects’.

7 See Anderson and Tverdova, ‘Winners, Losers and Attitudes about Government in Contemporary Democracies’.

8 See Anderson, Christopher J. and LoTempio, Andrei J., ‘Winning, Losing and Political Trust in America’, British Journal of Political Science, 32 (2002), 335351CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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11 See Norris, Pippa, ‘Support for Democratic Governance: Multidimensional Concept and Survey Measures’ (paper for the LAPOP-UNDP workshop on Candidate Indicators for the UNDP Democracy Support Index (DSI), Center for the Americas at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, 2006), p. 6Google Scholar.

12 See Linde, Jonas and Ekman, Joakim, ‘Satisfaction with Democracy’, European Journal of Political Research, 42 (2003), 391408CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 Norris, Critical Citizens.

14 See Jaime Castillo, Antonio M., ‘Institutional Performance and Satisfaction with Democracy: A Comparative Analysis’ (paper presented at the Comparative Studies of the Electoral System Plenary, Seville, 2006)Google Scholar; Klingemann, Hans-Dieter, ‘Mapping Political Support in the 1990s: A Global Analysis’, in Norris, ed., Critical Citizens, pp. 31–56Google Scholar; Russell J. Dalton, ‘Political Support in Advanced Industrial Democracies’; Kornberg, Allan and Clarke, Harold D., ‘Beliefs about Democracy and Satisfaction with Democratic Government: The Canadian Case’, Political Research Quarterly, 47 (1994), 537563CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Montero, José Ramón and Gunther, Richard, ‘Democratic Legitimacy in Spain’ (paper presented at the IPSA World Congress, Berlin, 1994)Google Scholar.

15 See Waldron-Moore, Pamela, ‘Eastern Europe at the Crossroads of Democratic Transition: Evaluating Support for Democratic Institutions, Satisfaction with Democratic Government, and Consolidation of Democratic Regimes’, Comparative Political Studies, 31 (1999), 3262CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 See Alexander F. Wagner, Mathias Dufour and Friedrich Schneider, ‘Satisfaction Not Guaranteed: Institutions and Satisfaction with Democracy in Western Europe’, CESifo Working Paper No. 910 (2003).

17 See: Norris, Critical Citizens; Dalton, Political Support in Advanced Industrial Democracies.

18 See Dennis, Jack and Owen, Diana, ‘Popular Satisfaction with the Party System and Representative Democracy in the United States’, International Political Science Review, 22 (2001), 399415CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

19 See Lasswell, Harold, Politics: Who Gets What When and How (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1953)Google Scholar.

20 On this point, see Dalton, Russell J. and Wattenberg, Martin P., Parties without Partisans: Political Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)Google Scholar.

21 See Anderson and Tverdova, ‘Winners, Losers and Attitudes about Government in Contemporary Democracies’.

22 See Anderson and LoTempio, ‘Winning, Losing and Political Trust in America’.

23 See Anderson, Christopher J. and Guillory, Christine A., ‘Political Institutions and Satisfaction with Democracy: A Cross-National Analysis of Consensus and Majoritarian Systems’, American Political Science Review, 91 (1997), 6681CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Anderson and Tverdova, ‘Winners, Losers and Attitudes about Government in Contemporary Democracies’. One should note that governments can control legislative majorities based on a minority of votes. Consequently, losers can outnumber winners among the electorate.

24 See Anderson, Blais, Bowler, Donovan and Listhaug, ‘Losers’ Consent’, p. 7Google Scholar.

25 See Nadeau and Blais, ‘Accepting the Election Outcome’, p. 553Google Scholar.

26 See Moehler, ‘Critical Citizens and Submissive Subjects’.

27 See Anderson and LoTempio, ‘Winning, Losing and Political Trust in America’.

28 We also follow the same approach for semi-presidential systems.

29 See Kreps, David M., A Course in Microeconomic Theory (New York.: Simon & Shuster, 1990)Google Scholar.

30 See Downs, Anthony, An Economic Theory of Democracy (New York: Harper and Row, 1957)Google Scholar; Adams, James F., Merrill, Samuel III and Grofman, Bernard, A Unified Theory of Party Competition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Orit, Kedar, ‘When Moderate Voters Prefer Extreme Parties: Policy Balancing in Parliamentary Elections’, American Political Science Review, 99 (2005), 185199Google Scholar.

31 See Henderson, Ailsa, ‘Satisfaction with Democracy: Evidence from Westminster Systems’ (presented at the Canadian Political Science Association Annual Conference, Winnipeg, 2004)Google Scholar.

32 See Ezrow, Lawrence, ‘Parties’ Policy Programmes and the Dog that Didn't Bark: No Evidence that Proportional Systems Promote Extreme Party Positioning’, British Journal of Political Science, 38 (2008), 479497CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

33 Data and documentation can be accessed at http://www.cses.org.

34 We did not include the Philippines given the lack of information needed to estimate several independent variables controlled for in our analysis.

35 The Japanese survey used the terms ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’ instead of left and right, respectively.

36 In the case of presidential and semi-presidential systems, if the left–right scores for the presidential winner was not available in the surveys, we use the left–right score of this candidate's party. For Belgium, we use party positions from the Benoit and Laver expert survey, given that this information is not available in the CSES survey. See Benoit, Kenneth and Laver, Michael, Party Policy in Modern Democracies (London: Routledge, 2006)Google Scholar.

37 Where there were two rounds in presidential elections, we classify as winners citizens who reported voting for the winning candidate in the first round. Where the survey also contains information on the reported vote in the second round (in Brazil, France and Romania, but not in Chile and Peru), replicating the analysis by coding as winners citizens who voted for the winning candidate in the second ballot does not yield significantly different results. Unfortunately, detail on first and second ballot vote in the previous election is not available. Finally, we only include in our analysis respondents who meet voting age requirements in each country at the time of the previous election as reported in Table 1. Otherwise respondents’ winner/loser status at the previous election cannot be estimated.

38 See Feng, Yi, ‘Democracy, Political Stability and Economic Growth’, British Journal of Political Science, 27 (1997), 391418CrossRefGoogle Scholar. We constructed the ‘government change’ variable reported in Table 2 from Philip Keefer, DPI2006 Database of Political Institutions: Changes and Variable Definitions (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2007). A ‘major’ government change happens each time the partisan composition of at least 40 per cent of the cabinet changes.

39 As a check on the accuracy of the reported vote, we compared the aggregate distributions of actual and past election outcomes and recalled election outcomes. In both cases, we found a tendency of over-representation by respondents favouring the victorious candidate or party, though the difference is not large. In the current election, 49 per cent of respondents reported voting for the government parties in their countries; this is slightly higher than the 45.9 per cent who actually voted for these parties. The same is true for the previous election: 50.4 per cent of reported voting for the winning candidates or parties while 49 per cent actually did so.

40 We also estimate cabinets’ left–right position using two expert surveys by Benoit and Laver (Benoit and Michael Laver, Party Policy in Modern Democracies) and Wiesehomeier and Benoit (see Wiesehomeier, Nina and Benoit, Kenneth, ‘Presidents, Parties and Policy Competition’, Journal of Politics, 71 (2009), 14351447CrossRefGoogle Scholar). Our main findings are not affected by the source of party placement data used (this result is not surprising, given the high correlation between mass and expert scores).

41 See Warwick, Paul V., ‘Coalition Policy in Parliamentary Democracies’, Comparative Political Studies, 34 (2001), 12121236CrossRefGoogle Scholar. We also estimate two different variants of DISTANCE. First, we have estimated by simply averaging positions of all cabinet parties. Secondly, we utilize a quadratic utility function. Neither approach affects our main findings.

42 As a control check, we also estimate a model by creating a dichotomous variable (as well as by running a simple ordinary least squares regression). Results obtained are very similar to the ones presented below and are available upon request from the authors.

43 In particular, ignoring the multilevel character of data generates incorrect standard errors and inflates Type I error rates. See Steenbergen, Marco R. and Bradford, Jones S., ‘Modelling Multilevel Data Structures’, American Journal of Political Science, 46 (2002), 218237CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Raudenbush, Stephen W. and Bryk, Anthony S., Hierarchical Lineal Models (London: Sage, 2002)Google Scholar.

44 To our knowledge only in Halla et al. (see Martin Halla, Friedrich G. Schneider and Alexander F. Wagner, ‘Satisfaction with Democracy and Collective Action Problems: The Case of the Environment’, IZA discussion paper No. 3613, 2008) has a multilevel ordered logit been employed to analyse the determinants of the level of satisfaction with democracy. Wells and Krieckhaus (see Wells, Jason M. and Krieckhaus, Jonathan, ‘Does National Context Influence Democratic Satisfaction? A Multi-Level Analysis’, Political Research Quarterly, 59 (2006), 569578CrossRefGoogle Scholar) and Anderson and Tverdova (see Anderson, Christopher J. and Tverdova, Yuliya V., ‘Corruption, Political Allegiances, and Attitudes toward Government in Contemporary Democracies’, American Journal of Political Science, 47 (2003), 91109CrossRefGoogle Scholar) employ a multilevel model but treat the dependent variable as an interval-level one. Note that the covariate effects in Equation 2 are constant across categories, a property referred as the parallel regressions assumption. Using the method proposed in Rabe-Hesketh and Skrondal (see Rabe-Hesketh, Sophia and Skrondal, Anders, Multilevel and Longitudinal Modeling Using Stata (Texas: Stata Press, 2005)Google Scholar) we found that this assumption seems reasonable in our case. An alternative to using a multilevel model would be to run a fixed effects ordered logit model. Doing so does not change the substantial results of our analysis.

45 See list in the Appendix to be found on the Cambridge University Press website at http://www.journals.cambridge.org/jps. See also Canache, Damarys, Mondak, Jeffrey J. and Seligson, Mitchell A., ‘Meaning and Measurement in Cross-National Research on satisfaction with Democracy’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 65 (2001), 506528CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mattes, Robert and Bratton, Michael, ‘Learning about Democracy in Africa: Awareness, Performance, and Experience’, American Journal of Political Science, 51 (2007), 192217CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

46 On the difference between orthodox and unconventional forms of political participation, see Barnes, Samuel H. and Kaase, Max, Political Action: Mass Participation in Five Western Democracies (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1979)Google Scholar; Kent, Jennings M. and Van Deth, Jan W., eds, Continuities in Political Action: A Longitudinal Study of Political Orientations in Three Western Democracies (New York: W. de Gruyter, 1990)Google Scholar.

47 See Wagner, Alexander F., Schneider, Friedrich G. and Halla, Martin, ‘The Quality of Institutions and Satisfaction with Democracy in Western Europe: A Panel Analysis’, European Journal of Political Economy, 25 (2009), 3041CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

48 See Kaufmann, Daniel, Kraay, Aart and Zoido, Pablo, Governance Matters II: Updated Indicators for 2000/01 (Washington, D.C.: World Bank. 2002)Google Scholar.

49 See Keefer, DPI2006 Database of Political Institutions.

50 See Aarts, Kees and Thomassen, Jacques, ‘Satisfaction with Democracy: Do Institutions Matter?’ Electoral Studies, 27 (2008), 518CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Anderson, Christopher, ‘Parties, Party Systems, and Satisfaction with Democratic Performance in the New Europe’, Political Studies, 46 (1998), 572588CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For Presidential and Semi-Presidential system, we estimate the Gallagher Index following the method proposed by Lijphart (see Lijphart, Arend, Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1999)Google Scholar, i.e., by taking the geometric mean of the Gallagher Index computed for presidential and for legislative elections.

51 See Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy.

52 See Wagner, Dufour and Schneider, ‘Satisfaction Not Guaranteed’.

53 See Miller, Arthur H. and Listhaug, Ola, ‘Political Parties and Confidence in Government: A Comparison of Norway, Sweden and United States’, British Journal of Political Science, 29 (1990), 357386CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

54 See Anderson and Guillory, ‘Political Institutions and Satisfaction with Democracy’. See also Banducci and Karp, ‘How Elections Change the Way Citizens View the Political System’; Wells and Krieckhaus, ‘Does National Context Influence Democratic Satisfaction?’

55 See Steenbergen and Jones, ‘Modelling Multilevel Data Structures’.

56 See Anderson, Blais, Bowler, Donovan and Listhaug, Losers’ Consent, p. 108.

57 By introducing aggregate-level variables, we explain a substantial proportion of the country-level variance (given that it reduces from 0.67 to 0.12: −82 per cent). This minimized a potential omitted variable bias (see Anderson and Tverdova, ‘Corruption, Political Allegiances, and Attitudes toward Government in Contemporary Democracies’).

58 See Brambor, ThomasClark, William and Golder, Matt, ‘Understanding Interaction Models: Improving Empirical Analyses’, Political Analysis, 14 (2006), 6382CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

59 We also note that for an extreme value of DISTANCE, i.e., larger than 9, the marginal effect of becomes negative. However, there are no observations that satisfy this condition, so we disregard this result as irrelevant.

60 Unfortunately, the original index by Lijphart (see Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy) cannot be used for our analysis, not only because it refers to a previous time period (early 1990s), but also because several new democracies included in our study are not covered by Lijphart.

61 See Bingham Powell, G. Jr, Elections as Instruments of Democracy (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000)Google Scholar.

62 See Branko Milanovic, Karla Hoff and Shale Horowitz, ‘Political Alternation as a Restraint on Investing in Influence’, Policy Research Working Paper, No. 4747, World Bank, 2008; Sartori, Giovanni, Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976)Google Scholar.

63 See Feng, ‘Democracy, Political Stability and Economic Growth’.

64 See Horowitz, Shale, Hoff, Karla and Milanovic, Branko, ‘Government Turnover: Concepts, Measures and Applications’, European Journal of Political Research, 48 (2009), 107129CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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