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Popular conceptions of democracy in international perspective – what people think it is, and how it affects their political behaviour

Temple, Luke (2017) Popular conceptions of democracy in international perspective – what people think it is, and how it affects their political behaviour. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis explores how citizens around the world understand the term ‘democracy’, and it tests what effect their conceptualisation of the idea has on their own political behaviour. Through an in-depth quantitative analysis, conducted on an existing dataset collected across more than 40 countries, it examines the individual and contextual factors which shape how people mentally map out this most crucial and contested of political concepts. The analysis builds upon a handful of recent studies which have sought to push the field of democracy studies forward by focusing less on whether citizens support democracy, and much more on how they understand its substantive meaning. Rather than designing a ‘test’ for citizens to see how close they align with the notion of liberal democracy, as many of these studies do, this thesis takes an exploratory approach to better allow for an exploration of how citizens conceptually map their understandings of democracy. The findings suggest that citizens do not adhere to any clearly delineated understandings of democracy, and instead hold understandings of democracy that combine liberal, populist, and social theoretical definitions, and, in some cases, even authoritarian ones. Despite this conceptual fuzziness however, the two conceptualisations of democracy outlined in this study – termed compound and authoritarian – do have consistent and clear effects on informal non-institutionalised political behaviour. Therefore, this thesis argues that future research should take seriously both the notion of understandings of democracy – not simply support for democracy – as well an exploratory approach. In this way we might better understand and navigate some of the many pitfalls that can occur when two citizens passionately pay lip-service to the term ‘democracy’, yet privately hold very different, and possibly even contradictory, ideas of what it means.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Geography (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.739865
Depositing User: Mr Luke Temple
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2018 12:44
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20133

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