Guardians of Democracy or Passive Bystanders? A Conjoint Experiment on Elite Transgressions of Democratic Norms

Inga Saikkonen*, Henrik Serup Christensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Emerging literature shows that citizens in established democracies do not unconditionally support central democratic principles when asked to weigh them against co-partisanship or favored policy positions. However, these studies are conducted in highly polarized contexts, and it remains unclear whether the underlying mechanisms also operate in more consensual contexts. Furthermore, it is unclear whether “critical citizens” or satisfied democrats are more eager to support democratic principles. We study these questions with evidence from a conjoint experiment conducted in Finland (n = 1030), an established democracy with high levels of democratic satisfaction and a consensual political culture. We examine how transgressions of two central democratic norms, the legitimacy of political opposition and the independence of the judiciary, affect leader favorability. We also explore how these differ across ideological and policy congruence and across levels of political disaffection. Our results show that some segments of the Finnish population are willing to condone authoritarian behavior if this brings them political benefits. Furthermore, we find that satisfied rather than “critical” citizens are more likely to sanction such behavior. These findings suggest that dangers of democratic deconsolidation may appear even in consensus democracies with relatively low levels of political polarization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-142
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Volume76
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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