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What Democracy Means to Citizens – and Why It Matters

Authors:

Siddhartha Baviskar ,

University of Pittsburgh, US
About Siddhartha
Siddhartha Baviskar is a Ph.D. Candidate of Political Science at the University of  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His dissertation is a cross-temporal study of the relationship between political culture and political regime in Chile. His general research  interests include public opinion and democratization in Latin America.
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Mary Fran T. Malone

University of Pittsburgh, US
About Mary Fran
Mary Fran T. Malone is a Ph.D. Candidate of Political Science at the University  of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a Visiting Lecturer at the University of New  Hampshire. Her dissertation focuses on the rule of law and democratization in  Latin America. Recently she has published articles in the Bulletin of Latin American Research and Desarrollo Económico.
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Abstract

Recent survey research indicates that democracy  means different things to different people. For  some, democracy is a method of selecting leaders,  protecting civil liberties and political rights, and  upholding the rule of law. Other citizens have  more expansive views of democracy, viewing it as  a mechanism for promoting social equality and  economic growth, for example. While such studies provide strong evidence that the concept ‘democracy’ is multidimensional, to date scholars  have not explained why citizens think of democracy in myriad ways, and whether such differences matter. We aim to address these issues  using data gathered from field research in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Guatemala in 2001.  Through open-ended questions, we asked diverse groups of respondents what democracy meant to  them. Relying upon answers to these questions,  we attempt to explain why respondents had such  varying views of democracy, and examine the  implications these conceptualizations of democracy have for regime stability.  

Resumen: Qué significa la  democracia para los ciudadanos y por qué es importante

Recientes investigaciones basadas en encuestas de  opinión pública revelan que la democracia significa diferentes cosas según de quién se trate. Para  algunos, la democracia es un método para elegir  líderes, proteger las libertades civiles y los derechos políticos, y mantener el estado de derecho.  Otros ciudadanos tienen visiones más amplias de  la democracia, y la ven, por ejemplo, como un  mecanismo para promover la igualdad social y el  crecimiento económico. Aunque estos estudios  ofrecen pruebas fuertes de que el concepto ‘democracia’ es multi-dimensional, hasta ahora los investigadores no han explicado por qué los ciudadanos piensan de maneras tan variadas, y si  estas diferencias importan. En este estudio, nuestra meta es abordar este tema utilizando datos  recogidos en el trabajo de campo realizado en  Argentina, Brasil, Chile y Guatemala en 2001. A  través de preguntas abiertas, preguntamos a diversos grupos de entrevistados qué significa la democracia para ellos. Basándonos en las respuestas  obtenidas, intentamos explicar por qué los entrevistados tenían visiones tan distintas de la democracia, y examinamos las implicancias de estas  diversas conceptualizaciones de la democracia  para la estabilidad del régimen democrático.
DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/erlacs.9682
How to Cite: Baviskar, S., & Malone, M. F. T. (2004). What Democracy Means to Citizens – and Why It Matters. ERLACS, (76), 3–23. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/erlacs.9682
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Published on 15 Apr 2004.
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