Final Report Essay

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The Effect of Political Support on Satisfaction with Democracy in Africa and Latin America

By Haian Nguyen University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

How does political support affect democracy? This question has been asked and attempted to answer by many researchers. Political support is seen through citizen’s values, priorities, cognitive beliefs, attitudes, and opinions. We need to focus on this emerging phenomenon because citizen’s support plays an essential role in democracy. It can prosper or weaken democratic institution because its citizen is the main foundation of democracy. For example, America is a great example of this because it is a government of the people, by the people, for the people” (Lincoln).

Predicting Democratic Satisfaction from Political Support

What explains democratic satisfaction in Africa and Latin America? Political scientists measure political support by comparing citizen’s attitudes based on winning versus losing status using different theories. Economic theories suggest that people prefer winning to losing. At any given point in time, the successful maintenance of political systems is more likely to be challenged by those in the minority than those in the majority. Simply put, today's losers thus are the "instigators of political change" and winners have the greatest incentives to avoid change. Psychological theories of cognitive dissonance suggests that democracy is about winning and losing within the context of set rules adhered to by those participating in political contests, people who voted for a governing party are more likely to believe that the government is responsive to their needs, to be satisfied with the government's performance, to feel like they have some impact on the political process, and to be supportive of its functionality. Lastly, political theories center on the outcome of people’s views of government. Winner-loser distinction affects people’s belief whether they can influence their government.

In order to examine the various factors affecting democratic satisfaction in Africa and Latin America, I will use a wide range of variables: gender, education, age, sociotropic economic perception, personal economic perception, interpersonal trust, and political interest. I will focus on the similarities and/ or differences within and across nations from two different regions of the world. Nigeria and Ghana are selected to be representative of Africa. Mexico and Bolivia are selected to be representation of Latin America.

The 2008 database provided by the AmericasBarometer survey carried out by the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) in 22 nations in the Western Hemisphere. The Respondents were given questions relevant to factors that can measure political support to determine their satisfaction. The database provided by AfroBarometer survey carried out by the African-led series of National Public Attitude Surveys on Democracy and Governance.

Figure 1.
Levels of Support for Countries in Africa


Figure 2.
Levels of Support for Countries in Latin America

Source: LAPOP

According to materials presented and discussed in class, the relationship between age, education, sociotropic, pocketbook, trust, and interests in politics with democracy is positive. In figure 1, one can see the trend in relationship between levels of support and satisfaction in democracy is positively correlated for countries in Africa (Kenya, Ghana, Mali, South Africa, Uganda) and Latin America (Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Haiti). High support indicates high satisfaction and confidence for the leader of the country as well as the system itself. The average level of support correlated to satisfaction is higher for countries selected in Africa than those in Latin America. However, the relationships are positive.

Table 1.
Regression results of satisfaction with democracy in Africa

Satisfaction with Democracy