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Research seminar

Democratic commitment

Why citizens tolerate democratic backsliding

Add to calendar 2024-04-15 17:00 2024-04-15 19:00 Europe/Rome Democratic commitment Theatre (Badia Fiesolana) and Zoom YYYY-MM-DD


15 April 2024

17:00 - 19:00 CEST


Theatre (Badia Fiesolana) and Zoom

This event, organised by the Transnational Democracy in the 21st Century interdisciplinary research cluster hosts Professor Natasha Wunsch (University of Fribourg), who will present her book titled 'Democratic Commitment: Why Citizens Tolerate Democratic Backsliding'.

Why do citizens often fail to act as effective bulwarks against democratic backsliding? The book claims that political culture is key to explaining the electoral success and enduring public support for authoritarian-leaning leaders despite their open violations of democratic standards. It posits that a lack of attitudinal consolidation around liberal democratic norms leaves important parts of the electorate vulnerable to buy-outs as well as majoritarian and illiberal appeals by political elites.

This talk will set out the three-stage argument linking individual-level democratic attitudes to vote choice in contexts of democratic backsliding. The empirical demonstration builds on extensive material including focus groups and original survey data, including two conjoint experiments, conducted in Poland and Hungary. The findings point to the crucial role citizens’ democratic attitudes play in explaining voter tolerance towards democratic backsliding.

Natasha Wunsch is Professor of European Studies and Director of the Center for European Studies at the University of Fribourg. She was previously an Assistant Professor at Sciences Po, Centre for European Studies and Comparative Politics (CEE) and a Senior Researcher with the Center for Comparative and International Studies at ETH Zurich. Her research interests lie at the intersection between European Politics and Comparative Politics, with a particular focus on democratisation and democratic backsliding. She recently completed the research project "Democratic Backsliding in Eastern Europe: Sequence, Strategies, Citizens," funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation from 2019-2024. 

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