The idea of democracy has revolutionized the world. It is based on a political order whose main feature is making the exercise of power subject to the consent of the governed. It spread across Europe in the 19th century, powering nations with the emancipating force of the peoples’ right to self-determination. During the 20th century it triumphed over modern tyrannies, repelling fascist regimes, the Nazis and their allies, then defeating Communism after a Cold War that ended with the collapse of the USSR.
However, as we enter the 21st century, the horizon looks darker. It is in this new and troubled context that we wanted to bring together our two institutions: on the one hand, the Fondation pour l’innovation politique, a French think tank committed to defending the values of freedom and progress and the ideals of the European Union; on the other, the International Republican Institute, an American think tank that promotes democracy worldwide. The results of this international study, carried out in forty-two democracies, are presented here under the title Democracies under pressure.
The 1st volume, devoted to themes and issues, shows that:
There is unanimous attachment to civil liberties • Democratic societies are tolerant • Support for representative democracy prevails, despite the discrediting of elected powers • Democracy remains the best possible system, but… • The legitimacy of universal suffrage has become contested • The democratic world is in favor of the death penalty • Though accepted by the majority, abortion prompts moral objections • Generational changes may lead to an erosion of democratic values • Islam incites concern • The welcoming of refugees is accepted in principle yet rejected in practice • The citizens surveyed are generally satisfied with their standard of living but feel that the way of life in their country is threatened • Law and order institutions (police, armed forces, etc.) are widely supported • There is a demand for authority • Democratic societies prefer more order even if it means less freedom • The Internet and social media offer citizens the possibility to inform themselves and express themselves more freely, while prompting fears of manipulation • Scientific and technological discoveries are seen as representative of progress • Big tech giants Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are popular, but not so much Facebook… • Unlike Russia, China and the United States are seen as influential powers • Europeans are in favor of treating immigration at the European Union level • In the face of new threats, Europeans approve of the idea of a joint army • Attachment to the euro limits the rise of populism throughout Europe • In most of the 42 surveyed democracies, globalization is more of an opportunity than a threat…
The data is available, in all 33 languages of the survey, as open data on data.fondapol.org.