Conceptualizing and Measuring the Quality of Democracy: The Citizens’ Perspective

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Conceptualizing and Measuring the Quality of Democracy: The Citizens’ Perspective

  • Dieter Fuchs Department of Social Science, University of Stuttgart, Germany
  • Edeltraud Roller Department of Political Science, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany

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Abstract:  In recent years, several measurements of the quality of democracy have been developed (e.g. Democracy Barometer, Varieties of Democracy Project). These objective measurements focus on institutional and procedural characteristics of democracy. This article starts from the premise that in order to fully understand the quality of democracy such objective measurements have to be complemented by subjective measurements based on the perspective of citizens. The aim of the article is to conceptualize and measure the subjective quality of democracy. First, a conceptualization of the subjective quality of democracy is developed consisting of citizens’ support for three normative models of democracy (electoral, liberal, and direct democracy). Second, based on the World Values Survey 2005–2007, an instrument measuring these different dimensions of the subjective quality of democracy is suggested. Third, distributions for different models of democracy are presented for some European and non-European liberal democracies. They reveal significant differences regarding the subjective quality of democracies. Fourth, the subjective quality of democracy of these countries is compared with the objective quality of democracy based on three indices (electoral democracy, liberal democracy and direct popular vote) developed by the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project. Finally, further research questions are discussed.

Keywords:  democracy; measuring democracy; models of democracy; political culture; quality of democracy; social science concepts; subjective quality of democracy; varieties of democracy



© Dieter Fuchs, Edeltraud Roller. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.