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Renewing the Centre

Understanding Democratic Deconsolidation

A woman votes on November 8, 2016 in the U.S. Presidential Election.

The rapid rise of populist parties in Western Europe and the US suggests that this may no longer be the case. The list in the past years has grown increasingly longer: The Five Star Movement in Italy, Front National in France, Podemos in Spain, the Sweden Democrats in Sweden, and the election of Donald Trump in the United States. In places that have historically been dominated by two major, moderate parties, populist candidates are garnering shocking levels of support.

Public opinion polling points to an equally concerning trend: According to data collected by the World Values Survey (WVS) and European Values Survey (EVS), international public opinion polls which have been administered since 1981, people in countries across the world are becoming increasingly disillusioned with democracy. This is evident in indirect measures of democratic support, including the willingness of respondents to endorse alternatives to democracy like army rule or “a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliaments or elections.” But it also expresses itself in direct criticism of democracy. In two thirds of the world’s developed democracies—including such countries as the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands—the percentage of respondents who find democracy to be a fairly bad or very bad system of government has significantly increased over the past decades. We can no longer assume that, once they are supposedly consolidated, democracies remain stable indefinitely.

We can no longer assume that, once they are supposedly consolidated, democracies remain stable indefinitely.

In this project, we therefore investigate the extent to which democratic deconsolidation has already taken place; analyse the reasons why it has occurred more rapidly in some countries than in others; and draw lessons about the political reforms that are needed to make democracies in North American and Western Europe more stable.

Yascha Mounk Executive Director, Renewing the Centre

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