WP39: Political institutions and satisfaction with democracy in sub-Saharan Africa

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Working papers
Cho, Wonbin

Do political institutions affect citizens' satisfaction with democracy? Using cross-sectional Afrobarometer survey data on attitudes toward democracy for 10 sub-Saharan African countries together with country-level data on political institutions in which citizens live, this article demonstrates that political institutions do indeed influence citizens' attitudes toward democratic performance. Political institutions mediate the relationship between citizens' political status - i.e., as winners, non-partisans, or losers - and their satisfaction with the way democracy works in the country. Specifically, I find that:

  1. those who have a party identification with the incumbent government (winners) are significantly more satisfied with the way democracy works than are those who do not (losers and non-partisans);
  2. citizens who live under a balanced two-party system are more satisfied with democratic governance than those who live under both predominant one-party systems and fragmented party systems; and
  3. losers in parliamentary systems show lower levels of dissatisfaction with the way democracy works than do losers in presidential systems.