B45885E1d01 - Center for the Study of Democracy (University...

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Center for the Study of Democracy (University of California, Irvine) Year  Paper - Political Support: Social Capital, Civil Society, and Political and Economic Performance Kenneth Newton University of Southampton and Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin This paper is posted at the eScholarship Repository, University of California. http://repositories.cdlib.org/csd/06-07 Copyright c ± 2006 by the author.
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Political Support: Social Capital, Civil Society, and Political and Economic Performance Abstract This paper assesses two main theories of the decline of political support that is found in many western democracies. The first is society-centred and built on the concepts of social capital, trust and civil society. The second is politics- centred and focuses on the performance of government and the economy. The two theories are not necessarily incompatible, but they are usually treated in a mutually exclusive way. In this article they are tested against a combination of aggregate cross-national comparative data and detailed case studies of four countries that have suffered exceptional decline of political support for politi- cians, political institutions, and the systems of government. The puzzle is that cross-national comparative evidence about a large and diverse number of na- tions supports social capital theory, whereas in-depth study of four countries that have experienced substantial decline of political support does not. The erosion of support coincides in all four with poor economic and/or political per- formance. A way of reconciling the two theories and their supporting evidence is suggested that argues that while social capital is a necessary foundation for democratic support, it is not a sufficient cause.
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CSD Center for the Study of Democracy An Organized Research Unit University of California, Irvine www.democ.uci.edu Political support is declining in many established western democracies as citizens become more and more critical of their political leaders, their government institutions, and their system of democracy. They place less trust in their politicians; are increasingly unlikely to identify with political parties and express confidence in them; have less confidence in their main institutions of government; are more likely to believe that government is run for the benefit of a few big interests; and are more dissatisfied with the way democracy works in their country. 1 The decline involves mainly support for authorities and regimes, and has not penetrated to the community level (Easton 1965; Norris 1999; Pharr and Putnam 2000; Dalton 2004: 45-48). National pride and support for democracy as a principle of government remain firm, but trust in politicians, confidence in political institutions, and satisfaction with democracy have declined in many, not all, of the older democracies.
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B45885E1d01 - Center for the Study of Democracy (University...

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