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Myth and Reality of the Legitimacy CrisisExplaining Trends and Cross-National Differences in Established Democracies$
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Carolien van Ham, Jacques Thomassen, Kees Aarts, and Rudy Andeweg

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198793717

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198793717.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 27 January 2022

The Myth of Legitimacy Decline

The Myth of Legitimacy Decline

An Empirical Evaluation of Trends in Political Support in Established Democracies

(p.17) 2 The Myth of Legitimacy Decline
Myth and Reality of the Legitimacy Crisis

Carolien van Ham

Jacques Thomassen

Oxford University Press

This chapter comprises an empirical evaluation of trends in political support within established democracies, to evaluate whether there is indeed a trend toward declining political support in established democracies. Using a variety of comparative data sets, i.e. the World Values Surveys, European Values Surveys, the European Election Studies, and the Eurobarometer surveys, this chapter reevaluates the empirical evidence for declining legitimacy, comparing trends in political support in sixteen established democracies from the mid-1970s to 2015. No consistent evidence is found for declining political support after the mid-1970s. Rather than a clear-cut long-term decline in political support that is apparent across established democracies, there is large variation between countries both in levels and trends of support. These findings call for a critical reappraisal of existing theories of legitimacy decline: how valid are such theories if the predicted outcome, i.e. secular decline of political support, does not occur?

Keywords:   legitimacy, political support, legitimacy decline, satisfaction with democracy, political trust

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