Find the working paper here. (Version: 12/2020)
Are citizens willing to trade democratic principles in favor of expected partisan gains? To disentangle this trade-off we administered discrete choice experiments in surveys across nine European countries to elicit the public’s reaction to nondemocratic reform proposals of the judiciary. The findings suggest that citizens and, remarkably, even government supporters reject attacks on judicial independence. Cross-country results using robust regression analysis show, first, that in highly polarized societies reforms to limit judicial independence are less sharply rejected than in less polarized societies. Second, in countries where trust in the highest court is high, citizens account for the court’s reactions to proposals threatening judicial independence more than when trust in the court is low. This has major implications for our understanding of citizens’ reactions to democratic backsliding.
Thomas Gschwend (University of Mannheim)