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Two recent papers in the Journal of Democracy highlight a disturbing erosion in public support for core democratic principles in a number of Western democracies over the past twenty years. The common assumption is that this trend reflects growing public dissatisfaction with the operation of the democratic system. This paper (focused on the United States and drawing upon World Values Survey data) rejects this interpretation and argues instead that the rise of antidemocratic opinion is more closely linked to shifting social and cultural values, in particular burgeoning antisocial attitudes. Disregard for democratic norms is part of a larger social transformation that has seen rising disengagement and alienation, particularly among younger generations and lower socioeconomic classes.  

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Issue Date: 
October 2017
Volume: 
28
Issue: 
4
Page Numbers: 
15-29

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