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Democracy by Demand? Reinvestigating the Effect of Self-expression Values on Political Regime Type

  • Sirianne Dahlum and Carl Henrik Knutsen

The notion that cultural characteristics influence political regimes remains popular, despite mixed supporting evidence. In particular, democracy is argued to emerge and thrive in countries where liberal or freedom-oriented values (so-called self-expression values) are widespread. Inglehart and Welzel, for instance, report such an effect, mainly drawing inferences from cross-country comparisons. Yet cross-country correlations between self-expression values and democracy could stem from different processes. Reinvestigating this relationship, this article finds no empirical support when employing models accounting for sample-selection bias, country-specific effects and the endogeneity of values to democracy. Self-expression values do not enhance democracy levels or democratization chances, and neither do they stabilize existing democracies. In contrast, this study finds indications that a country’s experience with democracy enhances self-expression values.

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Department of Political Science, University of Oslo (emails:; We thank Tore Wig, Håvard Mokleiv Nygård and anonymous reviewers, as well as the discussants and participants at the 2013 ISA Annual Conference in San Franciso, the 2013 Annual EPSA Meeting in Barcelona, the Democracies Today: Constitutions, Cultures, Practices Workshop at CSMN, UiO, and at the CSCW, PRIO brownbag seminar for very valuable comments and suggestions. We also thank Jørn Wichne Pedersen and Øyvind Solheim for excellent assistance. Data replication sets are available at and online appendices are available at

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