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Assessing the dimensionality of regime support in cross-national and time comparing perspective

Pascal Kolkwitz-Anstötz1, Oliver Platt2, Aribert Heyder2, Peter Schmidt3

1GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Germany; 2Institute for Political Science, University of Marburg, Germany; 3Center for International Development and Environmental Research, University of Giessen, Germany

The ongoing discussion on “the crisis of democracy” is not a new one. It has been particularly revived and augmented because of widespread political, economic, and social changes and by the electoral success of right-wing parties as well as populists throughout the Western world. In recent years, democracy backsliding, distrust in democratic decision-making, and eroding satisfaction with the way democracy works has become evident not only during the corona pandemic, but especially in so-called “illiberal democracies”. Against this background, this year's elections in Europe and the United States are important touchstones that could have a major impact on democracy and its key institutions.

Given the extensive literature from the social sciences and the various empirical approaches, it quickly becomes apparent that not only the concepts associated with regime support, but also the terms itself and its use are by no means consistent. Moreover, the causes and consequences of (changing) notions of democracy as a form of rule are frequently investigated, but it often remains unclear whether certain indicators really measure the associated concepts (predictive and concurrent validity) or if the measurement models hold across countries or even within countries regarding different societal groups (e.g., at least configural and metric measurement invariance). Therefore, in terms of the conceptual diversity and multidimensionality, it is hardly surprising that the question of suitable measurement instruments traditionally occupies a central and by no means undisputed topic of discussion.

With the ESS 10, which replicates the democracy module first applied in ESS 6, an excellent opportunity is given to analyze different conceptions of regime support more profoundly across time and countries. In the module, a scale is included that taps different normative conceptions of democracy, that is, the liberal, social, direct, and populist model. Theoretically, it is assumed that these alternative models of democratic rule might be held by the governed, whereas they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Instead, people might have individual views on certain democratic features and thus conceive or prioritize them rather differently which in turn has drawbacks on their regime preference and support. Regarding the two periods of fielding with a ten-year distance and rapidly changing conditions (economically, politically) as well as lasting demographic change, the issue of measurement equivalence as a precondition for substantive comparative analyses of regime support is increasingly relevant.

With our work we want to contribute to a better understanding of the concept of regime support by focusing on the comparability of the utilized measurements in the ESS 6/10. Consequently, we want to tackle the question how the notions of democracy can be mapped in European countries which is of utmost importance for evidence-based policies to understand and counteract anti-democratic developments. In doing so, we apply variable-centered approaches to asses construct validity and reliability (MGCFA, ESEM, Alignment), but also go beyond and additionally apply person-centered methods (LCA) as well as a combined approach (FFM) to investigate so far potentially undiscovered patterns.

Session Details:

How Europeans view and evaluate democracy, a decade later I Time: 09/July/2024: 9:30am-11:00am · Location: B103, Floor 1