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Democracy or Economy? Citizens'' Orientations in Times of Crisis

Monica Ferrin
University of A Coruña
Monica Ferrin
University of A Coruña
Martiño Rubal
Università degli Studi di Siena
Open Panel

Abstract

Recently, there has been a growing concern about the spread of democratic orientations among the citizenry, connecting back to the concept of civic culture. Empirical analysis, however, showed a different picture across countries. Indeed, while levels of support for democracy tend to be stable and high in most countries, other attitudes towards democracy vary across countries and seem to be dependent on the political and economic context. Similar trends have been found regarding political participation. Because democracies are assumed to draw on these orientations to be stable, it is preferable in any case to have democratically committed citizens. However, if these attitudes are partly shaped by the context, what happens when there is a strong economic crisis? In this paper, we propose a systematic analysis of the effects of the economic crisis on citizens’ orientations. First, we explore possible changes in democratic attitudes: are citizens less democratically oriented in times of economic crisis? Data from the Intune Project reveal an impressive decrease of some attitudes towards democracy from 2007 to 2009 in Europe. But are these changes homogeneous across countries? Are those who are suffering the most from the crisis the less trustful? Second, we study the link between changes in democratic attitudes and political participation. Does a decrease in democratic orientations imply a decrease in political participation? More interestingly, does it induce the same type of participation in all countries (i.e., right-wing radical vote vs. public demonstrations)? We try to answer these questions with Intune data for 18 countries.