Using Prolific Academic, two political scientists in late 2015 discovered that 24 percent, or one out of four Americans lack a basic commitment to democratic governance — a belief in debate, compromise and elected officials making public decisions. They wrote a book about this phenomenon in 2001, called “Stealth Democracy,” when they found a slightly larger faction, 27 percent, lacked commitment to democratic principles.
They write in The Washington Post that “a surprising number of Americans feel dismissive about such core features of democratic government as deliberation, compromise and decision-making by elected, accountable officials. They believe that governing is (or should be) simple, and best undertaken by a few smart, capable people who are not overtly self-interested and can solve challenging issues without boring discussions and unsatisfying compromises.”
There is a high correlation between these anti-democracy beliefs and Donald Trump supporters. “Far fewer Democrats and independents are stealth democrats. In fact, only 16 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of independents are — compared with 40 percent of Republicans.”
The authors of the study are:
- John R. Hibbing is the Foundation Regents professor of political science and psychology at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and co-author with Kevin B. Smith and John R. Alford of “Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences.”
- Elizabeth Theiss-Morse is the Willa Cather professor of political science at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and author of “Who Counts as an American?” I would like to explore this book along with theories that race, ethnicity and nationality are social constructs.
I’ve posted on this blog some disturbing surveys of American public opinion:
- Trump’s Threats to Democratic Ideals
- Only one in three Americans can name the three branches of government. This probably correlates strongly with citizens who vote in midterm elections, about 33 percent.
- Nearly 40 percent cannot pass the basic test of citizenship that all new immigrants must pass. I wonder how this correlates with education level and with voter participation?
- One out of three Americans would abandon basic freedoms, and embrace ignorant, bigoted fringe positions that would result in disastrous policies if adopted. This correlates strongly with participation in Republican primaries.
- A glass-half-full way of looking at these stats is that two thirds to three quarters of Americans believe in democratic principles, would not abandon basic freedoms, and that 60 percent of Americans can pass a basic test of citizenship. Historically, the positive numbers might be a high-water mark.
- These studies seem to suggest that only if the believers in democracy abandon it, or are so discouraged they don’t participate or vote will Trump win in 2016.