European Political Science

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 469–491 | Cite as

Democratising the Measurement of Democratic Quality: Public Attitude Data and the Evaluation of African Political Regimes



Diamond and Morlino (2005) propose a quality of democracy framework that includes eight dimensions, but they restrict use of opinion data to measuring only one of these: ‘responsiveness’. However, we argue that citizen experiences and evaluations are essential pieces of data that may also enable us to capture valid ‘insider’ measures of procedural and substantive dimensions that may be missed by expert judges and macro-level indicators. We develop indicators based on public attitude data for all eight dimensions of democracy. Substantively, this mass perspective on the Quality of Democracy gives us insight into what Africans themselves want out of democracy, and how they prioritise its various components. As we explore the places where citizen and expert evaluations diverge, we conclude that both individual and expert assessments of the quality of democracy deserve to be carefully interrogated. We cannot conclude that either experts or ordinary citizens provide the ‘true’ or ‘correct’ assessment, but rather that both perspectives are essential to fully understanding today's democratic experience, and the shape of the democratic future, on the continent.


democracy public opinion quality of democracy Africa 


  1. Beetham, D., Weir, S., Raching, S. and Kearton, L. (2001) International IDEA Handbook on Democracy Assessment, The Hague: Kluwer Law International.Google Scholar
  2. Bertelsmann Stiftung. (2009) Transformation Index 2010: Political Management in International Comparison, Gütersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung.Google Scholar
  3. Bratton, M. (2007) ‘Formal versus informal institutions in Africa’, Journal of Democracy 18 (3): 96–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bratton, M. (2010) ‘Anchoring the ‘D-Word’ in Africa’, Journal of Democracy 21 (4): 106–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bratton, M. and Logan, C. (2009) ‘Voters but not yet Citizens: Democratization and Development Aid’, in R. Joseph and A. Gillies (eds.) Smart Aid for African Development, Boulder: Lynne Rienner, pp. 181–206.Google Scholar
  6. Bratton, M. and Mattes, R. (2009) ‘Neither consolidating nor fully democratic: The evolution of African political regimes, 1999–2008’, Afrobarometer Briefing Papers, No. 67, East Lansing, Mi./Cape Town/Accra: Afrobarometer, 2009.Google Scholar
  7. Bratton, M., Mattes, R. and Gyimah-Boadi, E. (2005) Public Opinion, Democracy and Market Reform in Africa, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Croissant, A. (2004) ‘From transition to defective democracy: Mapping Asian democratization’, Democratization 11 (5): 156–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dahl, R. (1971) Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition, New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dalton, R. (2008) Citizen Politics: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies, 5th edn., Washington: Congressional Quarterly Press.Google Scholar
  11. Diamond, L. (2002) ‘Elections without democracy: Thinking about hybrid regimes’, Journal of Democracy 13 (2): 21–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diamond, L. and Morlino, L. (eds.) (2005) Assessing the Quality of Democracy, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Elkins, Z. (2000) ‘‘Gradations of democracy? Empirical tests of alternative conceptualizations’, American Journal of Political Science 44 (2): 193–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Marshall, M., Gurr, T.R. and Jaggers, K. (2009) Polity™ IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics, 1800–2009, Centre for Systemic Peace: Polity IV Project.Google Scholar
  15. Mattes, R. and Bratton, M. (2007) ‘Learning about democracy in Africa: Performance, awareness and experience’, American Journal of Political Science 51 (1): 192–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Merkel, W. (2004) ‘Embedded and defective democracies’, Democratization 11 (5): 33–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Merkel, W. and Croissant, A. (2004) ‘Conclusion: Good and defective democracies’, Democratization 11 (5): 199–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Powell, G.B. (2005) ‘The chain of responsiveness’, Journal of Democracy 15 (4): 91–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Smulovitz, C. and Peruzotti, E. (2000) ‘Societal accountability in Latin America’, Journal of Democracy 11: 147–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© European Consortium for Political Research 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political StudiesUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  3. 3.Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), Wallenberg Research Centre at Stellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations