Satisfaction with Democracy: The Impact of Institutions,
Contexts, and Attitudes
In this paper we critique existing research on citizens’ Satisfaction with Democracy (SWD), propose conceptual and empirical solutions to several problems with existing research, and estimate the most comprehensive micro-macro models of SWD to date. We propose an encompassing theoretical model of institutional and individual-level determinants of citizens’ satisfaction with democracy and then estimate that model with cross-national survey and macro data. Our model begins with a well-specified individual-level model of SWD separate from the effects of institutions on the individual-level determinants. The first step in successfully estimating such a model is theoretical: to properly specify the relationship from contextual factors (especially institutions) through possible individual-level mediators, to the outcome of interest – Satisfaction with Democracy. We then employ state-of-the-art multilevel mediation models (Preacher et al. 2010) to estimate this model on a merged dataset of European Social Survey and country-level contextual data. The results show that citizens’ judgments of democracy are based mostly in outputs and lived experience, not in institutional variation or its political consequences.