Nearly one-third of Americans support autocracy, poll finds

Democracy remains popular worldwide but nearly three-quarters of global respondents in a wide-ranging survey believe their elected officials have failed them

Alex Woodward
Wednesday 28 February 2024 17:00 GMT
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Against a tide of antidemocratic threats and a rise in autocratic movements around the globe, representative democracy still remains largely popular, but support has slipped over the last decade, according to the results of a wide-ranging survey from Pew Research Center.

There remains widespread dissatisfaction with the ways democracy is functioning, and nearly three-quarters of respondents in a survey spanning 24 countries believe that their elected officials don’t care what their constituents think.

Half or more respondents in 17 countries are dissatisfied with the way democracy works, a share that has declined since the survey was last performed in 2017.

According to the report, 42 per cent of respondents believe that no political party represents their views.

Though autocracy remains generally unpopular worldwide, with a majority of respondents in all but five countries rejecting it, a worrying share of respondents are open to authoritarian governance. Support for an autocratic form of government has significantly increased across three Latin American countries that were polled, as well as in Germany, India, Kenya, Poland and South Korea, according to the survey.

A median of 31 per cent across 24 nations would support authoritarian systems, Pew found.

The survey asked about two authoritarian models of government, including support for a system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts (“authoritarian leader”) and a system in which the military rules the country (“military rule”),” according to Pew.

In the US, 32 per cent would support a form of governance led by a “strong leader” or the military, according to the poll.

The share of respondents in the UK who support an autocratic governance is even higher, at 37 per cent.

Respondents who support autocracy largely have a right-wing ideological background and were less likely to offer any solution to help fix their respective democracies, the survey found.

Support for military rule, however, is generally low, with eight in 10 respondents across North America, Europe and Australia labelling it a bad system of governance.

But the share of the global public describing representative democracy as a “very good” way to govern has slipped in 11 of the 22 countries where data from 2017 is available. Those trends are not available in Australia and the US.

In 2017, 54 per cent of respondents in Sweden said representative democracy was a “very good” approach, while just 41 per cent believe so today.

The findings follow polling among more than 30,000 people from 20 February through 22 May of last year, with open-ended questions asking respondents a range of questions about their support for types of governing structures and what they believe it takes to fix them.

Respondents pointed to a range of ideas to help improve their democracies, including electing more women and younger people and more people from lower-income backgrounds.

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