Does partisanship promote anti-democratic impulses? Evidence from a survey experiment

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Emerging research argues that liberal democracy, including American democracy, is showing evidence of erosion and is in retreat around the world. Our research provides a counterbalance to concerns for American democratic decline by exploring the willingness of Americans to grant the president more authority for partisan reasons. We draw from a survey experiment administered to 1000 Americans embedded within the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Elections Survey (CCES). This experiment evaluates the influence of co-partisanship on support for undemocratic actions to empower presidents. We find that on average, respondents oppose a series of intensifying actions, across all partisan groupings and treatment conditions. We also find that co-partisanship with the president affects Democratic responses, but not those of Republicans. Democrats are less opposed to empowering President Obama relative to President Trump. But, overall, Republicans are less opposed to undemocratic acts than Democrats across all conditions. We interpret these results as relatively good news for American democracy. Partisan polarization may drive relative differences in support for expanding presidential power, but overall support for democracy, separation of powers, and institutional checks and balances remain high.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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