Estimating the value of democracy relative to other institutional and economic outcomes among citizens in Brazil, France, and the United States

Alicia Adserà, Andreu Arenas, Carles Boix

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1 Scopus citations

Abstract

How much do citizens value democracy? How willing are they to sacrifice their liberties and voting rights for growth, equality, or other social outcomes? We design a conjoint experiment in nationally representative surveys in Brazil, France, and the United States in which respondents choose between different societies that randomly vary in their economic outcomes (country income, income inequality, social mobility), political outcomes (democracy, public health insurance), and the level of personal income for each respondent. Our research allows us to estimate the respondents’ willingness to trade off democracy for individual income (as well as other societal attributes). We find that, on average, individuals are strongly attached to democracy and a robust welfare state. They prefer to live in a country without free democratic elections only if their individual income multiplies by at least three times and in a country without public health insurance only if their individual income more than doubles. After estimating these preferences at the individual level for all respondents, we show that, although there is an authoritarian minority in all three countries, forming a nondemocratic majority (by offering more income and/or other goods to respondents) is very unlikely. Our findings imply that, contrary to a growing discussion about the crisis of democracy, liberal democratic values remain substantially robust in high and middle income democracies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2306168120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume120
Issue number48
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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