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How Solid is Mass Support for Democracy—And How Can We Measure It?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 April 2017

Ronald Inglehart
professor of political science and program director in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. He can be contacted at


A decade has passed since the Third Wave of democratization brought an avalanche of new, relatively unstable democracies into being, raising the question, “How solid is support for democracy in these countries?” In the intervening years, public support for democracy has faded in some countries, many of which are democratic in name only. It is unclear how long even the pretense of electoral democracy will survive in the Soviet successor states, apart from the Baltics (Brzezinski 2001). The prospects for democracy in Islamic countries seem particularly poor, with some writers arguing that the basic values of Islamic publics may be incompatible with liberal democracy (Huntington 1993, 1996). This article examines this claim, using the 1999–2001 wave of the World Values Survey, which includes 10 Islamic countries, making it possible for the first time to compare the Islamic world with other major cultural zones. We find surprisingly widespread support for democracy among Islamic publics—at least by conventional measures.

2003 by the American Political Science Association

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