The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Mike Hogg Series in Comparative Politics- Milan Svolik (Yale Univ)

Democracy in America? Partisanship, Polarization, and the Robustness of Support for Democracy in the United States

Fri, October 12, 2018 | BAT 5.108

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Abstract: Is support for democracy in the United States robust enough to serve as a check against undemocratic behavior by elected politicians? In order to answer this question, we develop a model of the public as a democratic check and evaluate it using experimental as well as a natural experimental data. We conducted a series of original, nationally representative candidate-choice experiments in which some candidates adopt positions that violate key democratic principles. Respondents' choices allow us to infer their willingness to trade-off democratic principles for other valid but potentially conflicting considerations such as political ideology, partisan loyalty, and policy preferences. We find that the viability of the U.S. public as a democratic check is strikingly limited: only a small fraction of Americans are willing to prioritize democratic principles in their electoral choices and their tendency to do so is decreasing in the strength of their partisanship, policy extremism, and candidate platform polarization. Our findings echo classic arguments about the importance of political moderation and cross-cutting cleavages for democratic stability and highlight the dangers that political polarization represents for democracy.”

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