1. bookVolume 9 (2021): Issue 1 (June 2021)
Journal Details
First Published
15 Dec 2015
Publication timeframe
1 time per year
access type Open Access

Satisfaction with Democracy in Perspective: Anchoring Today By Looking Back and Forward

Published Online: 13 Aug 2021
Volume & Issue: Volume 9 (2021) - Issue 1 (June 2021)
Page range: 14 - 26
Journal Details
First Published
15 Dec 2015
Publication timeframe
1 time per year

The question of how satisfied people are with the workings of their national democracy has oft en been criticized but is still the international standard measurement of satisfaction with democracy (SWD). In this paper we explore the benefits of adding questions about remembered and expected satisfaction ‘ten years ago’ and ‘ten years from now’, as were asked in the ISSP citizenship surveys of 2004 and 2014. Based on the data from seventeen European countries, we find that national samples:

■ do not show universal ‘nostalgia’,

■ produce good guesses of past satisfaction but show no futurist insights,

■ give retrospective judgments that do not correlate well with changes in expert opinions,

■ give retrospective judgments that do not correlate well with changes in the share of the populist vote.

At the individual level we find:

■ that in almost all countries expected satisfaction with democracy ten years from now is a better predictor of political trust and feelings of political efficacy than satisfaction with democracy today,

■ that in almost all countries expected satisfaction with democracy ten years from now is a better predictor of the preference for populist voting (in one national case study),

we note that Poland is the only country in our sample where citizens were, in 2014, retrospectively more positive about the development of their democracy, probably due to the severe economic conditions Poland faced in 2004.

Overall, we do not find evidence for the relevance of retrospective judgements, but some evidence for the relevance of prospective judgements. We recommend further research into individual changes in present satisfaction and perceptions of these changes to better understand the frames of reference of ‘satisfaction with democracy today’.


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