research on perceptions of democracy


Polity or Policy: What is democracy about?

A large literature discusses how to define and specify ’democracy’. However, there remains wide disagreement on whether ’democracy’ should be defined in a rather minimalist way based on the holding of elections or whether other dimensions should be included in the definition. In this paper, I analyze individual opinions about essential characteristics of democracy among citizens. In a second step, I analyze the relationship between different perceptions of democracy and public support of democracy.


Is Democracy about Redistribution? (with Carl Henrik Knutsen)

Several prominent arguments in the social sciences draw on the assumption that progressive redistribution is a central feature of democratic politics. Applying this premise, it is, for instance, argued that the poor should favor democracy, whereas rich elites should be antagonistic. In this paper, we conduct an empirical investigation of the assumption by analyzing individual opinions about whether progressive taxation and redistribution is among the central characteristics of democracy. We further analyze what factors make individuals more or less likely to consider redistribution a central aspect of democracy. We discuss how our findings may contribute to explain two of the central puzzles in comparative politics, I) why do democracies not promote more redistributive policies than autocracies, and II) why is there no net empirical relationship between income inequality and democratization.

Published article:
Knutsen, Carl Henrik and Simone Wegmann. 2016. Is democracy about redistribution? Democratization 23(1): 164-192. Article