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Back to Paper Details
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The political geography of satisfaction with democracy

Cleavages
Democracy
Federalism
Electoral Behaviour
Voting Behaviour
David Willumsen
University of Innsbruck
Pedro Riera
IE School of Global and Public Affairs
David Willumsen
University of Innsbruck

Abstract

While a substantial literature explores the drivers of satisfaction with democracy, the potential effects of geography on satisfaction with democracy have so far been ignored. Both centre-periphery and urban-rural dynamics have substantial potential for influencing the extent to which voters are satisfied with democratic rule, yet we know little about the functioning and effects of such dynamics. Seeking to overcome this lacuna, in this paper, we combine CSES survey data with measures of geographical centrality in a country to explore how the geography of a respondent’s electoral constituency relative to the national capital influences levels of satisfaction with democracy. Our primary explanatory variable is the distance between the electoral district and the national capital. We expect an interactive relationship between geographical distance and the federal or unitary structure of the state, with distance to the capital having a less negative effect in federal countries. We further explore the effect of political (de-) centralisation on satisfaction with democracy using the Regional Authority Index. Using data covering over twenty countries over a period of 25 years, we find that both federalism and decentralisation lowers the negative effects of distance to the capital on satisfaction with democracy.