This chapter seeks to determine whether, and under what conditions, electoral integrity reinforces feelings of legitimacy. The agenda-setting model advanced in the Introduction to this book postulates that the general public judges the quality of contests, with citizens responding to real world conditions. Chapter 5 provides evidence confirming this claim: Contests that are unfair, corrupt, or flawed strengthen public awareness of electoral malpractices. In the model, this process, in turn, is predicted to undermine broader feelings of political legitimacy, including confidence in elected officials and institutions, satisfaction with the performance of democracy and the record of human rights, and voluntary legal compliance. In turn, weakened feelings of electoral legitimacy are expected to have behavioral consequences, thereby deterring voter turnout and fuelling protest politics, the topic of Chapter 7. By contrast, where elections meet international standards, this should strengthen citizens’ feelings of political legitimacy, as expressed through confidence in elected political parties and parliaments, the propensity to obey the law, as well as satisfaction with the state of democracy and human rights in their own country.
To buttress this argument, the first part of this chapter expands on the theoretical framework and the core propositions. Following previous research, this section defines the concept of legitimacy as a multidimensional phenomenon and the reasons why incidence of electoral malpractices are expected to weaken feelings of legitimacy, as well as considering alternative performance, cultural, and communication theories. The second part of this chapter outlines the evidence measuring attitudinal indicators of political legitimacy, derived from the sixth wave of the World Values Survey 2010–14 (WVS). This survey facilitates comparison of public opinion for citizens experiencing diverse elections in states ranging from Uruguay, Estonia, and Mexico to Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. As a multidimensional concept, the study compares multiple indicators of legitimacy. The third part of this chapter presents the results of the cross-national comparisons.
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