Explaining Support for Authoritarianism in New Democracies

Type Working Paper
Title Explaining Support for Authoritarianism in New Democracies
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
URL http://scholarworks.uvm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1016&context=castheses
In the last few decades, significant democratic advances have been made all across the
world. A body of research on democratization has emerged to explain this phenomenon.
However, one important question is often overlooked in the rush to try to explain the global
democratic push: do the citizens of these democratizing countries actually want democracy?
Often the answer seems to be yes. Perhaps because of universally accepted norms, positive
connotations with the word itself, or dreams of economic success, democracy retains a large
margin of support compared to authoritarian alternatives across the world, especially when
investigated in simple terms. However, this support is not uniform and falters in some new
democracies more than others. Surveys in several of these countries have revealed that
surprisingly large constituencies still view an authoritarian government as preferable.
This thesis will investigate the puzzle demonstrated in Chart 1.1, which shows the
percentage of respondents across Latin America and Africa who agreed that authoritarianism, or
a “non-democratic regime,” can be preferable to democracy. No country exceeded 30% support
for authoritarianism—good news for democracy—but there is significant variance across
different countries. Average authoritarian support in Latin America is 18.4% and ranges from
11.9% in Bolivia to 28.9% in Honduras. In Africa, authoritarian support is generally lower. The
African average is 11%, less than even the lowest Latin American country. However, there is
still notable variance across the region and Lesotho presents itself as a significant outlier with
29.7% of survey takers agreeing that an authoritarian regime could be preferable.

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