Studies in Comparative International Development

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 358–377 | Cite as

The Composition of Political Culture—A Study of 25 European Democracies

  • Thomas Denk
  • Henrik Serup ChristensenEmail author
  • Daniel Bergh


The Civic Culture by Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba is a path-breaking work within political science. Although The Civic Culture still provides inspiration for studies, new approaches to political culture have identified alternative citizen orientations that may be replacing the value orientations identified at the time. The more recent studies have examined specific attitudes such as political trust, party identification, and political efficacy or types of political subcultures such as critical citizens, stealth citizens or disenchanted citizens. These studies provide insights into the developments of specific attitudinal orientations, but do not discern the mix of political orientations among the population, which The Civic Culture suggests is central for democratic stability. The implications of these changes for the composition of political cultures are therefore still unknown. In this article, we, as suggested by The Civic Culture, examine the composition of political cultures to shed new light on the differences in political culture between old and new democracies. We use the fourth round of the European Social Survey to examine this question in 25 European democracies. The results suggest that there is a need to revise some of the main conclusions of The Civic Culture when it comes to the connection between political culture and democratic stability. Although civic citizens are widespread in old democracies, there is no single political culture sustaining a stable democracy. We also find considerable heterogeneity in the composition of the political cultures within old and new democracies alike, suggesting that there may be considerable variation in the cultural conditions for creating a stable democracy.


Political culture Civic culture Cultural composition Political orientations Democracy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Denk
    • 1
  • Henrik Serup Christensen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel Bergh
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceÅbo Akademi UniversityÅboFinland
  2. 2.Centre for Research on Child and Adolescent Mental HealthKarlstad UniversityKarlstadSweden

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