Institutional Explanations for Political Support

Pippa Norris

in Critical Citizens

Published in print March 1999 | ISBN: 9780198295686
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600043 | DOI:
Institutional Explanations for Political Support

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Substantial cross‐national variations have been demonstrated in political support/institutional confidence; the aim of this chapter is to investigate why these major differences between countries exist. It identifies at least three separate schools of thought seeking to explain this phenomenon: the role of cultural values, government performance, and political institutions. Comparisons are made among a broad range of political systems, drawing on the 1981–4, 1990–1 and 1995–7 World Values Surveys, the Latinobarometer and the Eurobarometer, and various support hypotheses are advanced (support for the party in government; dependence on level of democratization; differences between presidential and parliamentary systems (executive structure); variation with party system; differences between federal and unitary state structures; and variation with electoral system) and tested. The findings indicate that institutional confidence is most likely to be highest in parliamentary democracies characterized by plurality electoral systems, two‐party or moderate multi‐party systems, and unitary states, and that these relationships are confirmed even after controlling for differences in levels of economic development and post‐material values; social background and education are also related to institutional confidence, while the influence of socioeconomic status and gender are very modest. The results replicate one of the main theoretical principles of Anderson and Guillory (1997)—that winners express more confidence in the system than losers, and they also show that majoritarian institutions tend to produce greater institutional confidence than consociational arrangements.

Keywords: consociational institutions; cultural values; democracies; education; electoral system; executive structure; federal vs unitary state structure; gender; government institutions; government performance; institutional confidence; level of democratization; majoritarian institutions; multi‐party systems; parliamentary democracies; party in government; party system; plurality electoral systems; political institutions; political support; political systems; presidential vs parliamentary systems; social background; socioeconomic status; state structure; two‐party systems; unitary states

Chapter.  7123 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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