Kaftan, Lea (2022). Who Cares about Democracy? And Why? European Citizens’ and Parties’ Attitudes towards Democracy. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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This cumulative dissertation addresses the question when and why citizens and political elites politicise, defend or undermine democratic institutions. It is the first to show that citizens have different preferences for political institutions, that these preferences affect in how far citizens are willing to defend the institutions in place and that democracy, in fact, is an issue of electoral competition at least in Germany. The first chapter of this dissertation uses a survey experiment (list experiment) and quantitative text analysis of open-ended survey responses to elicit citizens’ support for and understandings of democracy in France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. It shows that authoritarian attitudes correlate strongly with citizens’ lack of support for democracy, while populist attitudes correlate strongly with their understanding of democracy. These are novel findings that contribute to the discussion on the explanatory factors for the lack of support for liberal democracy among some citizens, strongly pointing to the relevance of authoritarianism. The second chapter of this dissertation uses survey data from Germany and Poland that includes another type of survey experiments called vignette experiments. Together with Theresa Gessler, we show that citizens’ understandings of democracy significantly affect their willingness to tolerate different types of democratic backsliding. In contrast to the previous literature, it shows that citizens do not necessarily not care about democracy and thus trade it for their preferred policy, but that citizens have different preferences for political institutions that explain whether they support or punish governments who infringe on democratic institutions in place. The third chapter of this dissertation combines pre-existing survey data and manifesto data for German citizens and parties. By combining these different data sources, it shows that democracy per se as well as liberal democracy, social democracy and direct democracy are issues of party competition in Germany. Challenger parties refer to democracy more often than established parties and parties of different party families emphasise different conceptions of democracy in their election campaigns. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first article that conceptualises democracy as electoral issue and thus leads to a significant number of further questions regarding the role of elections in stabilizing or destabilizing democracy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-554251
Date: 2022
Place of Publication: Cologne
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Political Science > Cologne Center for Comparative Politics
Subjects: Political science
Uncontrolled Keywords:
democracy, Western Europe, list experiment, vignette experiment, valence issue, positional issue, liberal democracyUNSPECIFIED
Date of oral exam: 23 February 2022
NameAcademic Title
Kaiser, AndréProf. Dr.
Proksch, Sven-OliverProf.
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/id/eprint/55425


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