Democracy, Public Support, and Measurement Uncertainty

Study reexamining analyses in two prominent recent studies on classic hypotheses on democracy and public support and underscoring the necessity of accounting for measurement uncertainty.

By Yuehong Cassandra Tai, Yue Hu, Frederick Solt in Research


Do democratic regimes depend on public support to avoid backsliding? Does public support, in turn, respond thermostatically to changes in democracy? Two prominent recent studies (Claassen 2020a, 2020b) reinvigorated the classic hypothesis on the positive relationship between public support for democracy and regime survival—and challenged its reciprocal counterpart—by using a latent variable approach to measure mass democratic support from cross-national survey data. Both studies, however, used only the point estimates of democratic support; we show that incorporating the concomitant measurement uncertainty into these analyses reveals that there is no support for either study’s conclusion. Efforts to minimize the uncertainty by incorporating additional survey data still fail to yield evidence in support of either hypothesis. These results underscore the need both for more nuanced analyses of the relationships between public support and democracy and for taking measurement uncertainty into account when working with latent variables.

Changes of Public Support Over time


Posted on:
October 23, 2022
1 minute read, 151 words
democracy public opinion measurement uncertainty
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