Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Searching for Bright Lines in the Trump Presidency

  • John M. Carey, Gretchen Helmke, Brendan Nyhan, Mitchell Sanders and Susan Stokes...
Abstract

Is American democracy under threat? The question is more prominent in political debate now than at any time in recent memory. However, it is also too blunt; there is widespread recognition that democracy is multifaceted and that backsliding, when it occurs, tends to be piecemeal. To address these concerns, we provide original data from surveys of political science experts and the public measuring the perceived importance and performance of U.S. democracy on a number of dimensions during the first year-and-a-half of the Trump presidency. We draw on a theory of how politicians may transgress limits on their authority and the conditions under which constraints are self-enforcing. We connect this theory to our survey data in an effort to identify potential areas of agreement—bright lines—among experts and the public about the most important democratic principles and whether they have been violated. Public and expert perceptions often differ on the importance of specific democratic principles. In addition, though our experts perceive substantial democratic erosion, particularly in areas related to checks and balances, polarization between Trump supporters and opponents undermines any social consensus recognizing these violations.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Searching for Bright Lines in the Trump Presidency
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Searching for Bright Lines in the Trump Presidency
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Searching for Bright Lines in the Trump Presidency
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All

A list of permanent links to Supplemental Materials provided by the authors precedes the References section.

*

Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/IYWXMF

Bright Line Watch surveys were generously funded by grants from the Democracy Fund and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The authors are extremely grateful to YeonKyung Jeong for outstanding research assistance, and to three anonymous reviewers. All errors in the manuscript are the authors’ sole responsibility.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Abramowitz, Michael J. 2018. “Freedom in The World 2018.” Democracy in Crisis. Freedom House. Retrieved September 20, 2018 (https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FH_FITW_Report_2018_Final_SinglePage.pdf).
Acemoglu, Daron. 2017. “We Are the Last Defense against Trump.” Foreign Policy, January 18. Retrived September 20, 2018 (https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/18/we-are-the-last-defense-against-trump-institutions/).
Almond, Gabriel and Verba, Sidney. 1963. The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Alexander, Amy C. and Welzel, Christian. 2017. “The Myth of Deconsolidation: Rising Liberalism and the Populist Reaction.” ILE Working Paper Series 10. Institute of Law and Economics, University of Hamburg.
Bermeo, Nancy. 2016. “On Democratic Backsliding.” Journal of Democracy 27(1): 519.
Bright Line Watch. 2017. “Bright Line Watch Survey Report: Wave 2.” Retrieved September 20, 2018 (http://brightlinewatch.org/blw-expert-survey-wave-2/).
Chen, Jowei and Rodden, Jonathan. 2013. “Unintentional Gerrymandering: Political Geography and Electoral Bias in Legislatures.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 8(3): 239–69.
Coppedge, Michael, Gerring, John, Altman, David, Bernhard, Michael, Fish, Steven, Hicken, Allen, Kroenig, Matthew, Lindberg, Staffan I., McMann, Kelly, Paxton, Pamela, Semetko, Holli A., Skaaning, Svend-Erik, Staton, Jeffrey, and Teorell, Jan. 2011. “Conceptualizing and Measuring Democracy: A New Approach.” Perspectives on Politics 9(2): 247267.
Coppedge, Michael, Gerring, John, Henrik Knutsen, Carl, Lindberg, Staffan I., Skaaning, Svend-Erik, Teorell, Jan, Altman, David, Bernhard, Michael, Steven Fish, M., Cornell, Agnes, Dahlum, Sirianne, Gjerløw, Haakon, Glynn, Adam, Hicken, Allen, Krusell, Joshua, Luhrmann, Anna, Marquardt, Kyle L., McMann, Kelly, Mechkova, Valeriya, Medzihorsky, Juraj, Olin, Moa, Paxton, Pamela, Pemstein, Daniel, Pernes, Josefine, von Römer, Johannes, , Brigitte Seim, , Sigman, Rachel, Staton, Jeffrey, Stepanova, Natalia, Sundström, Aksel, Tzelgov, Eitan, Wang, Yi-ting, Tore, Wig, Wilson, Steven, and Ziblatt, Daniel. 2018. “V-Dem [Country-Year/Country-Date] Dataset v8.” Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project.
Dahl, Robert Alan. 1973. Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Diamond, Larry. 1999. Developing Democracy: Toward Consolidation. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Diamond, Larry. 2008. “The Democratic Rollback: The Resurgence of the Predatory State.” Foreign Affairs 87(2): 3648.
Diamond, Larry and Plattner, Marc F., eds. 2015. Democracy in Decline? Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Dionne, E. J., Ornstein, Norman J., and Mann, Thomas E.. 2017. One Nation after Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-yet Deported. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Drutman, Lee, Diamond, Larry, and Goldman, Joe. 2018. “Follow the Leader: Exploring American Support for Democracy and Authoritarianism.” Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. Retrieved September 20, 2018 (https://www.voterstudygroup.org/publications/2017-voter-survey/follow-the-leader).
Elkins, Zachary, Ginsburg, Tom, and Melton, James. 2009. The Endurance of National Constitutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Fearon, James D. 2011. “Self-Enforcing Democracy.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 126(4): 16611708.
Fishkin, Joseph R. and Pozen, David. 2018. “Asymmetric Constitutional Hardball.” Columia Law Review 118(3). Available at https://columbialawreview.org/content/asymmetric-constitutional-hardball/.
Foa, Roberto, Stefan and Mounk, Yascha. 2016. “The Democratic Disconnect.” Journal of Democracy 27(3): 517.
Foa, Roberto, Stefan and Mounk, Yascha. 2017. “The Signs of Deconsolidation.” Journal of Democracy 27(3): 515.
Frum, David. 2018. Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic . New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Galston, William. 2018. Anti-Pluralism: The Real Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Ginsburg, Tom and Huq, Aziz Z.. 2018. How to Save a Constitutional Democracy. University of Chicago Press.
Graham, Matthew and Svolik, Milan. 2018. “Democracy in America? Partisanship, Polarization, and the Robustness of Support for Democracy in the United States.” Working Paper. American Politics and Public Policy Workshop, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University.
Helmke, Gretchen. 2017. Institutions on The Edge: The Origins and Consequences of Inter-Branch Crises in Latin America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Helmke, Gretchen and Levitsky, Steven. 2004. “Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics: A Research Agenda.” Perspectives on Politics 2(4): 725–40.
Hooghe, Liesbet, Bakker, Ryan, Brigevich, Anna, De Vries, Catherine, Edwards, Erica, Marks, Gary, Jan, Rovny, Steenbergen, Marco, and Vachudova, Milada. 2010. “Reliability and Validity of Measuring Party Positions: The Chapel Hill Expert Surveys of 2002 and 2006.” European Journal of Political Research 49(5): 687703.
Keeter, Scott, Hatley, Nick, Kennedy, Courtney, and Lau, Arnold. 2017. “What Low Response Rates Mean for Telephone Surveys.” Pew Research Center, Retrieved September 14, 2018 (http://www.pewresearch.org/2017/05/15/what-low-response-rates-mean-for-telephone-surveys/).
Kellstedt, Paul M. and Whitten, Guy D.. 2013. The Fundamentals of Political Science Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ladd, Jonathan M., Tucker, Joshua A., and Kates., Sean 2018. “2018 American Institutional Confidence Poll: The Health of American Democracy in an Era of Hyper Polarization.” Georgetown University Baker Center. Retrieved November 15, 2018 (https://bakercenter.georgetown.edu/aicpoll/).
Levitsky, Steven and Ziblatt, Daniel. 2018. How Democracies Die. New York: Crown Publishing.
Lieberman, Robert C., Mettler, Suzanne, Pepinsky, Thomas B., Roberts, Kenneth M., and Valelly, Richard. 2017. “Trumpism and American Democracy: History, Comparison, and the Predicament of Liberal Democracy in the United States.” Working paper. Retrieved September 20, 2018 (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3028990).
Lijphart, Arend. 1977. Democracy in Plural Societies: A Comparative Exploration. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Lincoln, Abraham. 1838. “Lyceum Address.” In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Maryland: Wildside Press LLC.
Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1959. “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy.” American Political Science Review 53(1): 69105.
Locke, John. 1689. Second Treatise of Government and a Letter Concerning Toleration. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Luo, Zhaotian and Przeworski, Adam. 2018. “Subversion by Stealth: Elementary Dynamics of Democratic Backsliding.” Working Paper. Presented at Yale University, May 2018.
Madison, James. 1788. “The Federalist No. 48.” The Federalist Papers.
Maestas, Cherie D., Buttice, Matthew K., and Stone, Walter J.. 2014. “Extracting Wisdom From Experts and Small Crowds: Strategies for Improving Informant-Based Measures of Political Concepts.” Political Analysis 22(3): 354–73.
McGann, Anthony J., Anthony Smith, Charles, Latner, Michael, and Keena, Alex. 2016. Gerrymandering in America: The House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and the Future of Popular Sovereignty . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Miller, Michael. 2018a. “Expert Survey on American Democracy: February 2018.” Authoritarian Warning Survey. Retrieved September 20, 2018 (https://www.authwarningsurvey.com/single-post/2018/03/06/Expert-Survey-on-American-Democracy-February-2018).
Miller, Michael. 2018b. “Forecasting Democratic Erosion: Notes on the Authoritarian Warning Survey.” Working paper.
Mounk, Yascha. 2018. The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom is in Danger and How to Save It. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Nalepa, Monika, Vanberg, Georg, and Chiopris, Caterina. 2018. “Authoritarian Backsliding.” Working paper. Retrieved December 5 2018 (https://www.monikanalepa.com/uploads/6/6/3/1/66318923/auth_back_chicago.pdf).
Norris, Pippa. 2017. “Is Western Democracy Backsliding? Diagnosing The Risks.” Working paper. Retrieved September 20, 2018 (https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/getFile.aspx?Id=1514).
Norris, Pippa, Frank, Richard W., and Coma, Ferran Martinez i. 2014. “Measuring Electoral Integrity around the World: A New Dataset.” PS: Political Science and Politics 47(4): 789–98.
Norris, Pipa and Inglehart, Ronald. 2018. Cultural Backlash and the Rise of Populist Authoritarianism . New York: Cambridge University Press.
O’Donnell, Guillermo and Whitehead, Laurence. 2009. “Two Comparative Democratization Perspectives.” In King, Desmond, Lieberman, Robert C., Ritter, Gretchen, and Whitehead, Laurence, eds. Democratization in America: A Comparative-Historical Analysis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Pemstein, Daniel, Marquardt, Kyle L., Tzelgov, Eitan, Wang, Yi-ting, Krusell, Joshua, and Miri, Farhad. 2018. “The V-Dem Measurement Model: Latent Variable Analysis for Cross-National and Cross-Temporal Expert-Coded Data.” Varieties of Democracy Institute: Working Paper 21.
Pew Research Center. 2017. “Large Majorities See Checks and Balances, Right to Protest as Essential for Democracy.” Retrieved March 2, 2017 (http://www.people-press.org/2017/03/02/large-majorities-see-checks-and-balances-right-to-protest-as-essential-for-democracy/).
Posner, Eric A. 2018. “The Dictator’s Handbook, US Edition.” In Can It Happen Here? Authoritarianism in America, ed. Sunstein, Cass. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Powell, G. Bingham. 2000. Elections as Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian And Proportional Visions. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Primus, Richard. 2018. “Republic in Long-Term Perspective.” Michigan Law Review Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper Series 609.
Przeworski, Adam, Alvarez, Michael, Cheibub, José Antonio, and Limongi, Fernando, 2000. Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950–1990. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Schelling, Thomas C. 1960. The Strategy of Conflict. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Shugart, Matthew Soberg and Carey, John M.. 1992. Presidents and Assemblies: Constitutional Design And Electoral Dynamics. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Snyder, Jack. 2017. “The Modernization Trap.” Journal of Democracy 28(2): 7791.
Steenbergen, Marco R. and Marks., Gary 2007. “Evaluating Expert Judgments.” European Journal of Political Research 46(3): 347–66.
Sunstein, Cass R., ed. 2018. Can It Happen Here? Authoritarianism in America. New York: Dey Street Books.
Svolik, Milan. 2018. “When Polarization Trumps Civic Virtue: Partisan Conflict and the Subversion of Democracy by Incumbents.” Working paper. Retrieved August 30, 2018 (https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/campuspress.yale.edu/dist/6/1038/files/2018/09/polarization_manuscript-2ex9y63.pdf)
Voeten, Erik. 2016. “Are People Really Turning Away From Democracy?” Working paper. Retrieved December 15, 2016 (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2882878).
Weingast, Barry R. 1997. “The Political Foundations of Democracy and the Rule of the Law.” American Political Science Review 91(2): 245–63.
Welzel, Christian and Inglehart, Ronald. 2008. “The Role of Ordinary People in Democratization.” Journal of Democracy 19(1): 126–40.
Waldner, David and Lust, Ellen. 2018. “Unwelcome Change: Coming to Terms with Democratic Backsliding.” Annual Review of Political Science 21: 93113.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Perspectives on Politics
  • ISSN: 1537-5927
  • EISSN: 1541-0986
  • URL: /core/journals/perspectives-on-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
UNKNOWN
Supplementary materials

Carey et al. Dataset
Dataset

 Unknown
WORD
Supplementary materials

Carey et al. supplementary material
Appendix

 Word (45 KB)
45 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed