What do citizens and political leaders have in mind when they think about democracy? This article deals with the relationship between different conceptions of democracy and the level of support
for democracy among both ordinary citizens and political elites in two post-Soviet countries,
Russia and Ukraine.
Data collected through personal interviews in 1992 and 1995 reveal that the mass and elite in
these post-socialist countries hold different conceptions of democracy. The elite tend to emphasize law and order and the rule of law, whereas the citizens stress freedoms in their understanding of democracy. Involvement in politics, especially in a political party, has a significant influence on the meaning of democracy as well as on the consistency among attitudes reflecting support for democratic principles. Different conceptions of democracy are also found to affect the perceived extent to which the current regime fits with the individual's idea of what a democracy should be like.