In this panel we explore how deep democratic commitments are within the populations of Western societies. We ask a variety of questions related to how broad, deep or fundamental citizens commitment to democracy really is. For example, are democratic political attitudes linked to biological mechanisms and thus very deep-seated? Do citizens make distinctions between people of different ethnic or racial backgrounds when they think about granting political rights? When and how do citizens feel threatened so that they react by letting democratic freedoms slip? And how committed is the American public to the principles of democracy?
Session Abstract: Democratic accountability is one of the pillars of representative democracy. Despite its proven record over the last century, there is a clear feeling of dissatisfaction among the citizenry regarding the capacity of elected officials and parties to maintain trust toward the political process. This dissatisfaction is expressed through different phenomena such as the interpretation of what representation means, the expression of negative feelings toward groups and institutions, or various forms of delegative democracy. It is important to study this question using various levels of analyses, and different methods.
The Political Relevance of Disgust Sensitivity.: Patrick Fournier (Université de Montréal), Michael Bang Petersen (Aarhus Univeristy), Stuart Soroka (University of Michigan) Abstract: The fields of political psychology and election studies often live separate lives. One reason has been the difficulties of utilizing excessively long psychological question batteries in the high-quality, representative samples that is the hallmark of election studies. In this study, we show the possibilities of shedding important new light on electoral behaviour and attitudes utilizing a one-item measure of psychological differences in disgust sensitivity. We demonstrate that disgust sensitivity serves as a foundational political difference that colours a very large range of social and political attitudes and behaviours: including political engagement, reactions towards outgroups, and support for government intervention. The data are drawn from the 2015 Canadian Election Study.
Public Opinion and the Politics of Claims-Making: Allison Harell (Université du Québec à Montréal), Keith Banting (Queen's University), Will Kymlicka (Queen's University) Abstract: In democracies, citizens have multiple avenues in which to make demands on their representatives, be it through the electoral process or through direct claims transmitted through various forms of political participation. Yet, we know little about how the public views the legitimacy of various types of claims-making activities and whether perceptions vary based on who is making the claim and how they make it. In this paper, we draw on a unique online survey experiment conducted in Canada (n=2100) in 2017 where we explore how citizens react to public mobilization, as well as their more general attitudes toward various social groups in Canada. This paper is based on an experimental vignette that manipulates: 1) the group making the claim (Aboriginal peoples, immigrants, French-speaking Quebeckers, seniors); 2) the nature of the claim (group-specific or general); and 3) the type of protest (letter-writing, public protest, street blockade). We hypothesize that minority demands for claims that are understood as specific to the group (e.g. land claims, minority accommodation) will be seen as less legitimate than general claims for which any group in society could make a claim (poverty reduction within community), especially when more contentious forms of protest are used to make them. Results suggest, as expected, that claims by seniors are seen as more legitimate than minority group claims. Furthermore, more contentious forms of protest (street blockade) are seen as less legitimate, though only for group-specific claims.
Commitment to Democracy in the US: John M. Carey (Dartmouth College) Abstract: How committed is the American public to supporting democracy? Are there any democratic principles which, if violated by politicians, would elicit resistance from the public? Are citizens of all political stripes equally willing to punish candidates for such violations? To find out, we conducted an experiment that asked people which of several hypothetical candidates they would support, using a conjoint experimental design that allows us to estimate the relative importance to voters of hypothetical candidates’ traits, partisanship, policy positions, and support for democratic principles. Our experiment yields the following findings: Partisanship outweighs all else for both Democrats and Republicans. Both groups are roughly 19% points more likely to select candidates from their own party versus candidates from the other party, regardless of any other candidate qualities. Democrats, Republicans, and independents impose roughly the same penalties (roughly 4% points to 13% points) on candidates who violate democratic principles related to political control over investigations, judicial independence, and cross-party compromise. Democrats diverge most dramatically from Republicans and independents on voting rights. Whereas Democrats impose a penalty on candidates who support legislation that would restrict voter access, Republicans reward candidates who do so by almost 17% points, and independents reward them by nearly 8% points.
Populism, Trump and Support for Democracy: Elisabeth Gidengil (McGill University), Dietlind Stolle (McGill University) Abstract: Scholars and pundits alike are increasingly concerned about the re-emergence of radical right-wing populism in the United States and across Europe. The 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Brexit vote in the UK, the rise of radical right populist parties in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland and even Germany, all testify to the importance of this phenomenon. This paper focuses on the implications of the rise of populism for representative democracy. Are populists willing to countenance clamping down on democracy or can the rise of populism contribute to democratic renewal? If so, why? Are people who experience economic or cultural threats not only more likely to support populism but also more willing to sacrifice democratic principles? To answer these questions, our paper explores the relationship between perceived threats, support for populism and democratic attitudes in the contemporary United States. Based on a YouGov sample and using validated survey measures of populist attitudes and embedded experiments, we examine how factors such as sex, racial attitudes, economic deprivation and perceptions of cultural threat help to explain populist attitudes and potential democratic backsliding.