Democratic Norms: What they are and how they matter

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Daniel Bischof


Aarhus University


DKK 4,426,844




Semper Ardens: Accelerate


Democracies are facing challenges from within: the US Capitol was stormed by a violent mob, the rule of law has come into question in some democracies (e.g. Poland), and authoritarian candidates are on the rise (e.g. Hungary's Viktor Orbán). As a result many journalists and academics argue that "democratic norms'' among the public and political elites are eroding. But what do we mean conceptually when referring to norms in the context of democracy and democratic values? Which role do they play for democratic stability? And which factors affect the rise and fall of democratic norms? This innovative project seeks to provide pioneering conceptual and empirical answers to these research questions.


Existing research in political science struggles to define norms in relation to democratic institutions: some link them to actions taken by the political elite (e.g. acceptance of election results), others to citizens support for democracy. Thus, the academic and public debates lack a coherent understanding of the very subject of their debates. This then results in a lack of empirical knowledge about norms in relation to democratic support: which citizens outline stronger norm compliance? In which countries are democratic norms stronger? And which factors foster democratic norms? Answers to these questions are absent from current research on attitudes to democracy, even though the scholarly and public debate has identified these questions as key to better understand recent challenges.


Via three working packages (WP) this innovative project seeks to provide pioneering conceptual and empirical answers to the questions what democratic norms are and how they matter. WP1 provides a conceptual toolbox scholars and journalists can use when seeking to understand "democratic norms" and their role for our societies. WP2 will explore the cross-country variation in democratic norms by relying on regression techniques on unique surveys conducted across twelve countries about citizens' perception of democratic norms. WP3 then seeks to understand whether our everyday experiences with democracy can be a reference point for democratic norms based upon a survey experiment embedded into a two-wave panel in three countries.

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