WP48: The durability of political goods? Evidence from Nigeria's new democracy

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Working papers
Bratton, Michael and Peter Lewis

Conventional wisdom suggests that, for new democracies to survive, citizens must receive the benefits of socioeconomic development. Yet an emerging literature shows that, following democratic transitions, the delivery of polittical goods such as order, civil rights and good governance, can sustain a new regime, at least in the short run. But how long does any such honeymoon last?

This paper uses survey data over time to assess the durability of various types of public goods in shaping popular attitudes to democracy in Nigeria, a critical test where democracy is under threat. We find that, even under unfavorable conditions, political goods are more durable than previously thought and that mass preferences for democracy do not require an economic miracle. To be sure, economic assessments of policy performance shape evolving views about the supply of democracy; over time, however, political assessments of the trustworthiness of national leaders are equally important.