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Democracy and the Changing Tides of Popular Opinion

A new poll shows how people across the globe are changing their views on democracy.

By:  |  April 1, 2024  |    555 Words
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(Photo by Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The Pew Research Center carried out a global survey of the views on democracy around the world. While this type of governance is still popular, people don’t seem to be as pleased with it as they once were. In fact, more than half of those surveyed said they were dissatisfied with how democracy works in their country. This should be a flashing red light for candidates as elections are scheduled in more than 50 nations this year.

Democracy Declining in Popularity

Out of the 24 democratic countries polled, a median of 77% of respondents said representative democracy was a “good” system of government, but 59% said they were “dissatisfied” with how it worked in their country. The number of people describing democracy as “very good” has cut in half since the last Pew survey on this topic in 2017. “People do like representative democracy,” Richard Wike, managing director of Pew’s Global Attitudes research, told the Associated Press. “But you see here in lots of different ways people are really frustrated with how it’s performing. There’s a real disconnect between people and their representatives.”

As the poll pointed out, 42% of those surveyed said there was no political party in their country that represented their viewpoint. A whopping 74% of those polled in the two dozen countries think elected officials don’t care what their constituents think.

So, it’s surprising that support for more authoritarian forms of government is on the rise. Nearly one-third of the countries surveyed approved of the type of governance where a “strong leader” would not have to rely on courts or legislative interference to make decisions. These nations include Argentina, where supporters call President Javier Milei “the madman,” as well as Brazil, Germany, Mexico, and Kenya. In India, 67% preferred a more authoritarian system, which is an increase of 12% from the 2017 poll.

Support for different types of governments across 24 nations, according to the Pew Poll:

  • Representative democracy: 77%
  • Direct democracy, where it’s the citizens and not the officials who vote on major issues: 70%
  • Rule by experts: 58 % (think Anthony Fauci during the COVID pandemic)
  • Rule by a strong leader: 26%
  • Rule by the military: 15%
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(Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

So, where does the United States stand in all of this? In America, the wealthiest country surveyed, most people think representative democracy is best, but as many as 15% backed military rule. When it comes to elected officials, 42% of those polled in the US believed policies would improve if more women were elected while a median of 50% across the surveyed countries supported more women in politics.

As the popularity of democracy declines, more people think women and younger adults should be in leadership roles. However, while 46% of the countries questioned thought electing younger adults would improve policies, in the US, just 38% supported the idea. America had the second lowest approval of this behind only Japan.

With more than 50 countries holding elections this year, accounting for about half of the planet’s population, it might behoove candidates to pay attention to what their constituents are saying. Although democracy is still the preferred form of governance, when more than three-quarters of voters think their elected officials aren’t listening to them, it’s time to lend an ear, listen, and do their jobs – act on behalf of the citizens who elected them.

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