Democracy, Anyone? Support for Democratic Governance in Newly Unequal Societies: Evidence from Post-Soviet Market Economies

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 5:45 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Azamat JUNISBAI , Pitzer College, Claremont, CA
Barbara JUNISBAI , Pitzer College, Claremont, CA
In this paper, we examine attitudes about the desirability of democracy versus dictatorship in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, two of the most pro-market economies in post-Soviet Eurasia.  Drawing on original data collected in late 2012, we raise a series of fundamental questions about the link between market economics and democratic political culture.  Are some societal groups more receptive to democratic ideals than others?  Are the middle classes, following expansive market reforms and a shrinking of the welfare state, as hungry for political change and as hostile to dictatorship as democratic theorists posit?  How do individual experiences with the transition to capitalism affect not only perceptions of current government performance, but preferences for the political future?  To uncover answers, we systematically test the effects of a host of demographic and individual-level characteristics using a nationally representative dataset of 3000 respondents (1500 in each country).  We look at minority versus titular status, household income, educational attainment, area of residence, and religiosity, as well as individual trajectories in the labor market, understandings of the roots of social inequality, and one’s satisfaction with current political institutions and practices.  We find that, more than two decades since the onset of independence, post-communist citizens remain divided over basic questions of governance, and this division is especially pronounced in Kyrgyzstan.  In addition, surprising patterns of group and individual-level preferences emerge, challenging a number of conventional theoretical expectations.