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Civic Culture and Democracy: The Question of Causal Relationships

  • Edward N. Muller (a1) and Mitchell A. Seligson (a2)


A causal model of relationships between structural properties of states, civic culture attitudes of the general public, and change in level of democracy is tested with cross-national data. The model permits inferences about the possibility of unidirectional or reciprocal causation between civic culture attitudes and democracy, controlling for macrosocietal variables such as economic development, income inequality, and subcultural pluralism. Most civic culture attitudes do not have any significant impact on change in democracy. One of them, interpersonal trust, appears clearly to be an effect rather than a cause of democracy. The exception is the percentage of the general public that prefers gradual reform of society instead of revolutionary change or intransigent defense of the status quo. Support for gradual reform has a positive impact on change in democracy, and it is unrelated to a country's years of continuous democracy—findings that support the hypothesis of a unidirectional civic culture effect on democracy.



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