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Working paper

WP191: Only game in town? Inequality and demand for democracy in Africa – a micro perspective

Working Paper No. 191
Thomas Isbell 19 Aug 2022
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In this paper, the author explores whether perceived inequality is associated with demand for democracy among Africans. Past research has diverged on whether macro-level inequality should increase or decrease support for democracy, with some arguing that people might see democracy as a solution to inequality, and others that people might see it as a cause. I advance this literature by using a perceptual measure of inequality from Afrobarometer: how people feel their living situation compares to others’ in their country. I find that perceived equality is significantly associated with greater demand for democracy, while perceptions of relative deprivation and relative advantage are both associated with lower democratic demand. These effects are largely significant above and beyond the effect of absolute poverty and known predictors of support for democracy, such as free and fair elections and level of education.

Thomas Isbell

Post-doctoral research fellow and research assistant at Afrobarometer