Lecture / Reading

A wolf in sheep's clothing: Citizen uncertainty and democratic backsliding

Sponsored by The Europe Center


Thursday, March 11, 2021
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
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Speaker: Monika Nalepa, Columbia University

A prominent contemporary phenomenon is "backsliding'' of democratic countries into (semi-)authoritarian practices. Importantly, such episodes unfold over time, and often involve uncertainty about the ultimate intentions of governments. Building on recent, we present a model in which a government engages in a reform that may allow for subsequent actions that are inconsistent with the rule of law. Citizens must decide whether to replace the incumbent following the reform. Consistent with existing work, the model suggests that polarization is an important factor in democratic backsliding. More importantly, the model demonstrates that in a dynamic setting, citizens may support incumbent governments even if citizens are fundamentally opposed to authoritarianism. One consequence is that citizens may genuinely regret their electoral choices. We illustrate the model's implications using a survey experiment in contemporary Poland.

Co-Sponsored by the Global Populisms Project.

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