Alexander Wuttke, Konstantin Gavras, Harald Schoen
Leader of the free world or pioneer in democracy’s decline? Examining the democratic deconsolidation hypothesis on the mass level in East and West Germany

Research and Politics, 2020: 7, issue 1, (e-only)
ISSN: 2053-1680 (online)

A stable democratic society is unthinkable if its citizens oppose the principles of self-governance. Yet, recent studies suggest that citizens of consolidated democracies are increasingly turning their backs on this system of government. Nonetheless, the evidence is mixed and mainly focuses on attitudes toward democracy as a generic concept, while less is known about mass support for the liberal variant of democracy. This study contributes to this debate by 1) analyzing citizen attitudes toward core elements of liberal democracy in addition to direct measures of democratic support and 2) separating age, period, and cohort effects. We investigated the development of democracy-related attitudes in probability-based samples collected in Germany from 1982 through 2018. Although Germany’s Eastern region can be considered a likely case of democratic deconsolidation, the analysis did not provide evidence for a decline in support of democracy as a generic concept or its fundamental principles in West or East Germany.