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Understandings and evaluations of democracy

A new report that analyses the latest European Social Survey (ESS) data measuring attitudes towards democracy in 31 countries was formally launched earlier this week. 

The report primarily focuses on survey responses to questions about people’s understanding and evaluation of democracy, collected across Europe from 2020-22. 

Around 30 questions on the topic were first asked in Round 6 (2012/13) of the survey, with the majority of these questions repeated in the latest round. 

The authors launched the report - Understandings and evaluations of democracy: Topline results from rounds 6 and 10 of the ESS - at a webinar on Tuesday 24 October. 

Mónica Ferrín (University of A Coruña), Claudia Landwehr (University of Mainz), and Enrique Hernandez (Autonomous University of Barcelona) introduced the models of democracy and how they were measured. 

The survey measured support for electoral, liberal, social and direct democracy in both rounds with a populist model added to the most recent round. 

The authors also discussed respondents’ views about the importance of democracy and how they feel it operates in reality. 

The report establishes whether the importance and evaluations of democracy have remained stable or changed over the past decade. 

The authors were members of the Questionnaire Design Team (QDT) that developed this repeat module on democracy. 

Other QDT members were: Hanspeter Kriesi (European University Institute) and Levente Littvay (Central European University). 

Due to the pandemic, ESS Round 10 fieldwork was longer than usual, with interviews conducted from September 2020 until August 2022. 

As a result of measures implemented nationally to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus, countries were allowed to conduct the survey using self-completion modes for the first time. 

It means that 24 countries collected data in line with previous rounds, using face-to-face interviews, and the remaining nine used self-completion methods (online and paper). 

As a result of data being collected using different modes over a longer period than in previous rounds, please refer to our short briefing: Notes on ESS Round 10 data release.

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Stefan Swift
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