‘Illiberal Democrats’

Research question/goal: 

This project focuses on the origins and consequences of the rise of ‘illiberal democrats’: citizens with an allegiance to the abstract notion of democracy, who at the same time reject many key norms, institutions, and behaviours that have traditionally been regarded as necessary ingredients, or even the constitutional pillar of liberal democracy. The constitutional pillar comprises constitutional checks and balances, political equality, freedom of expression, and judicial protection of individual and minority rights. All of these are not only at the heart of liberal democracies, but they also constitute the core principles on which the European Union was founded. Increasing support for ‘illiberal democratic’ values and populist parties is therefore likely to undermine support for the EU. In this project, we examine the antecedents and consequences of ‘illiberal democratic’ attitudes as well as the link between such attitudes, party platforms, patterns of (social) media consumption, electoral behaviour, and support for the EU.

The aim of the project ‘Illiberal Democrats’ (ILLDEM) is to fill this gap in the literature by examining the antecedents, dimensions, and consequences of ‘illiberal democratic’ attitudes for the future of European democracies and European integration. Specifically, ILLDEM focuses on answering four research questions:

  1. What are the patterns and predictors of support for different components of liberal democracy across European countries?
  2. What is the role of (social) media in providing a forum for contents relating to illiberal attitudes
  3. What are the mechanisms that translate ‘illiberal democratic’ attitudes into electoral support for populist parties?
  4. What are the implications of the increasing support for ‘illiberal democratic’ parties for the support for European integration?
Current stage: 

The first version of the survey data (European Parliament Election Study 2019, Voter Study) was released via the GESIS Data Archive (Study No. ZA7581). A first research paper linking illiberal mass attitudes with EU support was accepted at the journal Politics, a second paper focusing on the role of Brexit on support for the EU received a “Revise & Resubmit” from European Union Politics, and a third paper on the link between illiberal attitudes and support for populist parties was submitted to the Journal of Democracy.

Furthermore, the BMBF approved funding for the analysis of the Euromanifestos and social media communication of all relevant parties competing in the 2019 EP elections as part of the ProConEu project.

Fact sheet

2018 to 2023
Data Sources: 
nationally representative cross-sectional surveys, party manifesto content analyses, and social media communication
Geographic Space: