The Backlash against Democracy, with Roberto Foa

This week, Turi is joined by Roberto Foa to discuss his shock findings across two reports. Around the world, support for Democracy is falling precipitously, and falling fastest amongst the young.

S2 E12: The Backlash against Democracy

Roberto Foa’s research on Global Dissatisfaction with Democracy and Youth Dissatisfaction with Democracy uncovered the highest rates of dissatisfaction in decades, particularly amongst young people.

“The majority of Americans today are dissatisfied with Democracy”

2019 represents the highest level of democratic discontent on record. Around the world, the share of individuals who are dissatisfied with democracy has risen to 57.5%.

In the biggest macro-survey on perceptions of democracy yet performed, Roberto’s research shows some terrifying key trends with dissatisfaction at its worst in the world’s largest and oldest democracies.

  • If a majority of citizens in the US are dissatisfied, it’s 80% in Brazil, and closer to 90% in Mexico.
  • In Europe, it’s 80% in Greece and 65% in Italy.
  • In Africa, growing disillusion with the promise of newly democratic countries has pushed dissatisfaction up to 60% in both Nigeria (the world’s 5th largest democracy) and South Africa.
  • With the failure of the Arab Spring, democracy in the Middle East remains a dream.
  • The only two exceptions are some northern European countries (Switzerland, Netherlands, the Nordics) and parts of Asia where democracy appears to be delivering.

But while dissatisfaction is not quite the same as anti-democratic sentiment, frustrations with its failings are THE fastest route towards populism (that democratic counterfeit).

Listen to Turi and Roberto discuss his findings from around the world, and look at:

  • why we have lost our faith in democracy
  • whether we’re right to distrust its promises
  • why the young in particular feel democracy has disenfranchised them
  • and how greater ideological polarization might actually be good for democracy in the long term…

“Dissatisfaction with Democracy is rational - in countries with institutions that deliver, it isn’t there”

Works cited include:

Read the Full Transcript

Roberto Foa

Roberto Stefan Foa is University Lecturer in politics and public policy, Co-Director of the Cambridge Centre for the Future of Democracy, and Director of the YouGov-Cambridge Centre for Public Opinion Research.

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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 24 Mar 2021 at 15:27 UTC