Democracies under pressure: how and why citizens are disenchanted


The idea of democracy has revolutionized the world. It is based on a political order whose main feature is making the exercise of power subject to the consent of the governed. However, as we enter the 21st century, the horizon looks darker, note Dominique Reynié of the Fondation pour l’innovation politique and the International Republican Institute’s Daniel Twining.

Fondation pour l’innovation politique

From increased polarization to foreign interference to a complete lack of trust in media, much has been written about the global democratic crisis, but surprisingly little research has been done on how and why individual people feel disenchanted with the promises of democracy, IRI adds. Now a survey of over 36,000 citizens in 42 democracies finds that democratic societies are tolerant and democracy remains the best possible system, despite the discrediting of elected powers. But….

  • The legitimacy of universal suffrage has become contested
  • Generational changes may lead to an erosion of democratic values
  • Citizens are satisfied with living standards but feel their way of life is threatened
  • Law and order institutions (police, armed forces, etc.) are widely supported
  • Democratic societies prefer more order even if it means less freedom

The global survey is comprised of two volumes:

  • the first volume is devoted to themes and issues, such as trust in institutions, support for the model of representative democracy, support for abortion or the death penalty, the decline of democratic values among younger generations, etc.;
  • the second volume is dedicated to the forty-two countries of the survey, offering a fact sheet for each that summarizes the state of national public opinion. We also present the reader with an “Index of Democratic Culture” that makes it possible to rank each country in relation to the others.

The survey’s findings will be discussed on Thursday June 6 at 4pm at the International Republican Institute (a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy)
Ronald Reagan Events Center
1225 I Street NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C. 20005


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