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A Mile Wide But an Inch Deep(?): The Structure of Democratic Commitments in the Former USSR

James L. Gibson
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 40, No. 2 (May, 1996), pp. 396-420
DOI: 10.2307/2111630
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111630
Page Count: 25
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A Mile Wide But an Inch Deep(?): The Structure of Democratic Commitments in the Former USSR
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Abstract

Cultural theories argue that the beliefs, values, and attitudes of ordinary citizens are important for processes of democratization. In order for mass political culture to influence politics, citizens must hold views toward democracy that are temporally stable, impervious to short-term economic failure, and connected to actual political behavior. 1) To the degree that attitudes toward democracy represent a coherent belief system, there will be a tendency toward attitudinal stability. 2) If support for democracy is instrumental--the primary value being economic prosperity--then economic failure and malaise will cause support for democracy to wither. 3) Based on protest activity taking place during the failed Putsch of 1991, I test the hypothesis that democratic political values are associated with resistance to the coup. The analysis is based in part on a panel survey, with interviews conducted in 1990 and 1992, and in part on a large-scale 1992 survey in Russia and Ukraine. I find that attitudes toward democratic institutions and processes are reasonably stable, are little affected by perceptions of economic decline, and are connected to protest against the anti-democratic coup. While democracy is far more than the beliefs and values of ordinary citizens, this analysis suggests that there is room for some optimism regarding the creation of stable democracies in the states of the former Soviet Union.

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