Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs
Comparative Politics and International Relations presents
Voting Against Autocracy
When and how do voters punish politicians for subverting democracy? We develop a conceptual framework that differentiates between three mechanisms: vote switching, backlash, and disenchantment. The first mechanism entails defection by voters from a party that undermines democracy to one that does not; the latter two mechanisms entail transitions between voting and abstention. We estimate the magnitude of each mechanism by combining evidence from a series of original survey experiments, traditional surveys, and a quasi-experiment afforded by the re-run of the 2019 Istanbul mayoral election, in which the governing party attempted to overturn the result of an election that it had lost. We find that backlash and disenchantment serve as a democratic check at least as much as does vote switching, with each mechanism arising from a different segment of the electorate. Both persuasion and mobilization are viable tools for curbing the authoritarian tendencies of elected politicians.
Milan Svolik is Professor of Political Science at Yale University. His research focuses on comparative politics, political economy, and formal political theory. Svolik has authored and co-authored articles on the politics of authoritarian regimes, democratization, and democratic backsliding. He is the author of “The Politics of Authoritarian Rule” (Cambridge University Press, 2012), which received the best book award from the Comparative Democratization Section of the American Political Science Association. In addition to continuing work on the politics of authoritarianism and democratization, Professor Svolik’s current research includes projects on democratic backsliding, support for democracy, and electoral manipulation. His latest book project examines why ordinary people support politicians who undermine democracy.
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This event was first published on January 28, 2021 and last updated on March 19, 2021.