Theories of Popular Support for Democracy

  • Ross CampbellEmail author
Part of the New Perspectives in German Political Studies book series (NPG)


This chapter outlines and evaluates four approaches which dominate as explanations of popular support. The first draws on writing from modernisation, which holds that modern capitalism initiates changes in social structure and individual value profiles, the long-term consequences of which have reshaped popular support for democracy. A second approach emphasises how involvement within civil society provides an antidote to apathy and alienation and projects a climate of trust onto the polity. Third, writers suggest that support fluctuates on the basis of political-economy, with favourable circumstances boosting support and more austere times leading to its erosion. Fourth, scholars emphasise the importance of partisan behaviours, claiming that popular support depends upon party fortunes at national elections. These approaches need not necessarily be viewed as mutually exclusive. Although they emphasise different mechanisms, the chapter argues that there are sufficient points of cross-fertilisation to enable them to be integrated into a single analytical perspective.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Media, Culture and SocietyUniversity of the West of ScotlandPaisleyUK

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