Keeping up with the Dlaminis: perceived inequality and satisfaction with democracy

Working paper number:458
Author: Thomas Isbell 
Unit: CSSR

Does perceived inequality shape how satisfied ordinary Africans are with how democracy is functioning in their countries? In this paper, I use the most recent round of Afrobarometer data (collected from 2016 to 2018 in 34 countries, n=45812) to test whether satisfaction with democracy (SWD) is higher among people who feel that their living conditions are equal to others’ or who feel that they are better off than other people. Controlling for country-level effects, I show that feeling better off than other people increases satisfaction, and feeling worse off than other people decreases satisfaction. I contribute to the literature by demonstrating that these relative assessments are significant and comparable in effect size to widely used predictors of satisfaction with democracy found in the literature, such as economic country-level evaluations, partisanship and political interest. These results therefore should encourage future research to include individual-level comparative assessments as predictors of SWD. This paper moreover represents the most recent cross-national re-examination of predictors of SWD in Africa. My regression results are widely in line with past empirical research, both in and outside of Africa, and suggest that SWD is primarily shaped by political and economic performance evaluations. This points to the explanatory model of SWD in Africa being relatively stable across time.

Publication file:Isbell.pdf