NATIONAL NEWS

Democracy’s appeal is slipping as nations across much of the world hold elections, a poll finds

Feb 28, 2024, 9:02 AM

FILE - Supporters cheer as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks a...

FILE - Supporters cheer as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 24, 2024. A new survey provides a sobering outlook of the world's democracies. While most citizens in two dozen countries say representative democracy is a good way to govern, they are deeply dissatisfied with the way it's working in their country. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Representative democracy remains a favorite system of governance around the globe, but its appeal is slipping on the eve of elections in much of the world, according to a survey of 24 democratic countries by the Pew Research Center released Wednesday.

While a median of 77% across the 24 surveyed countries said representative democracy was a “good” system of government, higher than any other alternative, a median of 59% told pollsters they were dissatisfied with how democracy was working in their own country. In the 22 countries where data was available from 2017, the last time Pew asked about democracy, the share describing democracy as a “very good” system was down in half of them.

“People do like representative democracy. But you see here in lots of different ways people are really frustrated with how it’s performing,” said Richard Wike, managing director of Pew’s Global Attitudes research. “There’s a real disconnect between people and their representatives.”

Across the 24 countries — all democracies — a median of 74% said they don’t believe elected officials care what people like them think. Only 10 of the 24 national leaders on the survey had favorable ratings from half or more of the public.

But the alternatives were seen as even worse. Only six opposition leaders got favorable reviews, and a median of 42% of respondents said no political party in their country represents their viewpoint. People in the political center were more likely to report not feeling like a party represents their views.

The poll comes as the world’s democracies prepare for a titanic year, with elections scheduled in more than 50 nations that represent half the world’s population. That includes Indian elections this spring, European Union-wide elections in June and the November presidential election in the United States.

The voting comes as support for more authoritarian forms of government are on the rise. The Pew survey found that in eight of the surveyed countries, support for a “strong leader” who can make decisions without court or legislative interference increased since 2017.

Those countries included Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Kenya and Argentina, where Javier Milei, a self-described “anarcho,-capitalist” whose supporters call him “the madman,” won that country’s presidential election in November, after the Pew survey work was completed earlier last year. Overall, just under one-third typically backed some sort of authoritarian system across the surveyed countries.

Support for a strong leader also rose in India, which stood out as the country with the highest level of support for that form of government, with 67% of those surveyed ranking it as a good system, an increase of 12 % from when Pew asked the question in 2017.

India’s popular prime minister, Narendra Modi, has been criticized for eroding that country’s democratic and secular traditions with his Hindu nationalist party. But the country’s residents also reported a high level of satisfaction with democracy in the poll, and Wike said the two factors are intertwined in India.

“These authoritarian models have more support there,” Wike said. “That gives authorities some foundation of public support they can draw on.”

The poll found support for a strong leader increased the most in Mexico, where it jumped 23% since 2017. At the same time, Mexico was one of three countries where support for democracy increased — Brazil and Poland were the other two.

Support for more authoritarian leadership tended to be strongest among those with lower levels of education and income, as well as those on the ideological right. Poorer countries registered higher support for autocratic systems, including military rule. Having the military in control of governing also was backed by about a third of all residents in eight of what Pew called more “middle-income” countries, such as Mexico, India, Indonesia and South Africa. Overall, though, military rule is the least popular form of government, with a median of just 15% supporting it.

The U.S. is an outlier in multiple categories, including its support for more autocratic systems.

It was the wealthiest country surveyed, and while its support for autocratic systems was well below majority level — only 15% back military rule and 26% back a strong leader system — they were higher than half the other countries in the poll.

That comes as former President Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, has continued to speak warmly about authoritarian leaders, such as China’s Xi Jinping, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Wike said the U.S. also stands out for its polarization over questions of whether more diverse representation would improve the country’s policies. A median of 50% across the surveyed countries believe policies would improve if more women were elected, while in the U.S. that share was only 42%.

Across the surveyed countries, a median of 46% believed electing more younger adults to office would improve policies, while in the U.S. that share was 38%, the second-lowest recorded after Japan. The U.S. also registered the largest ideological gap on the question, with 7 in 10 liberals saying younger leaders would improve conditions and only 2 in 10 conservatives agreeing.

While representative democracy was the most popular system, direct democracy, in which citizens themselves vote on major issues, was close behind, with a median of 70% saying it would be a good way to run their country. Pew also found an increase in support for a system run by experts rather than elected officials, with a median of 58% backing that model.

Pew surveyed 30,861 people in 24 countries between February and May 2023. The margin of error varied by country.

National News

Associated Press

College students, inmates and a nun: A unique book club meets at one of the nation’s largest jails

CHICAGO (AP) — For college senior Nana Ampofo, an unconventional book club inside one of the nation’s largest jails has transformed her career ambitions. Each week, the 22-year-old drives a van of her DePaul University peers to Cook County Jail to discuss books with inmates and recently, the well-known activist Sister Helen Prejean. Ampofo comes […]

7 minutes ago

Associated Press

Someone fishing with a magnet dredged up new evidence in Georgia couple’s killing, officials say

McRAE-HELENA, Ga. (AP) — Someone using a magnet to fish for metal objects in a Georgia creek pulled up a rifle as well as some lost belongings of a couple found slain in the same area more than nine years ago. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says driver’s licenses, credit cards and other items dragged […]

59 minutes ago

Associated Press

Supreme Court to weigh whether doctors can provide emergency abortions in states with bans

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly two years after overturning the constitutional right to abortion, the Supreme Court will consider Wednesday how far state bans can extend to women in medical emergencies. The justices are weighing a case from Idaho, where a strict abortion ban went into effect shortly after the high court’s 2022 decision overturning Roe […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Transgender Louisianans lost their ally in the governor’s seat. Now they’re girding for a fight

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — As transgender people in Louisiana watched surrounding states in the deeply conservative South implement a slew of laws targeting nearly every facet of their lives in recent years, they counted on their ally in the governor’s office to keep their home a relative oasis. Former Gov. John Bel Edwards, the […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Pentagon set to send $1 billion in new military aid to Ukraine once bill clears Senate and Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon is poised to send $1 billion in new military aid to Ukraine, U.S. officials said Tuesday as the Senate moved ahead on long-awaited legislation to fund the weapons Kyiv desperately needs to stall gains being made by Russian forces in the war. The decision comes after months of frustration, as […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

US government agrees to $138.7M settlement over FBI’s botching of Larry Nassar assault allegations

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department announced a $138.7 million settlement Tuesday with more than 100 people who accused the FBI of grossly mishandling allegations of sexual assault against Larry Nassar in 2015 and 2016, a critical time gap that allowed the sports doctor to continue to prey on victims before his arrest. When […]

4 hours ago

Democracy’s appeal is slipping as nations across much of the world hold elections, a poll finds