Reconciling Citizens with the Tradeoffs of Democracy: Attitudes Toward Democracy Under Rising Politicization

Project Details


Democracies involve tradeoffs since all their desirable qualities cannot be simultaneously maximized. Hard choices must be made in order to balance democratic principles such as popular sovereignty and the rule of law, or freedom and political equality.These tradeoffs would not be problematic as long as citizens and political leaders were open to compromise and accept that democracy requires a delicate balancing of virtues. The politicization of these tradeoffs in recent events such as Brexit or Poland’s judicial reform suggests that this is likely not the case. However, we still know very little about the positions of citizens and parties
regarding democratic tradeoffs; how these contribute to citizens’ increasing discontent with democracy; how the rising politicization of the tradeoffs of democracy might exacerbate these dynamics; and whether it is possible to curb this process. To investigate these questions this project: (1) elaborates a conceptual map of democratic tradeoffs and empirically examines citizens’
preferences and parties’ positions on them; (2) analyzes the determinants of citizens’ democratic tradeoff preferences, and how the interplay between these preferences and parties’ politicization of these tradeoffs affects individuals’ support and satisfaction with democracy; (3) examines how citizens can be reconciled with the idea that some democratic qualities cannot be simultaneously maximized. The empirical analysis focuses on 15 European countries and implements an integrative multi-method approach
combining cross-sectional and panel surveys, content analysis, and experiments. The proposed project breaks new theoretical and methodological ground in the study of political culture. It brings the inherent tensions of democracy to the forefront and develops new tools for the measurement of tradeoff preferences and their consequences.
Effective start/end date1/10/2230/09/27

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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