Learning about democracy in Africa: performance, awareness and experience

Robert Mattes, Michael Bratton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

137 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Conventional views of African politics imply that Africans' political opinions are based either on enduring cultural values or their positions in the social structure. In contrast, we argue that Africans form attitudes to democracy based upon what they learn about what it is and does. This learning hypothesis is tested against competing cultural, institutional, and structural theories to explain citizens' demand for democracy (legitimation) and their perceived supply of democracy (institutionalization) with data from 12 Afrobarometer attitude surveys conducted between 1999 and 2001. A multilevel model that specifies and estimates the impacts of both individual- and national-level factors provides evidence of learning from three different sources. First, people learn about the content of democracy through cognitive awareness of public affairs. Second, people learn about the consequences of democracy through direct experience of the performance of governments and (to a lesser extent) the economy. Finally, people draw lessons about democracy from national political legacies.
LanguageEnglish
Pages192-217
Number of pages26
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Volume51
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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democracy
learning
performance
experience
political opinion
legitimation
institutionalization
social structure
supply
citizen
economy
politics
demand
evidence
Values

Keywords

  • democracy
  • democracy in Africa
  • African politics

Cite this

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Learning about democracy in Africa : performance, awareness and experience. / Mattes, Robert; Bratton, Michael.

In: American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 51, No. 1, 01.01.2007, p. 192-217.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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