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Sorting Out Support for Democracy: A Q‐Method Study

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Support for democracy is crucial to democratic stability. Yet the nature and range of democratic belief systems, and whether these belief systems are idiosyncratic to specific individuals and polities or are more general, remain largely unknown. Such unknowns complicate an already daunting measurement task. Extant survey‐based measures are fraught with validity problems and say little about the democratic beliefs individuals most strongly hold or reject. To address these problems, this study blends focus groups, interviews, and Q‐sort methodology to examine patterns of subjective, behavioral renderings of democratic support profiles. It finds seven shared profiles of beliefs concerning democracy, alternative regimes, and political and civil freedoms across Chile and Argentina. Their resemblance to democratic belief systems found with other methods bolsters their validity and generalizability. The analyses reveal the relative weight of each orientation within each belief profile and their intensity across profiles. In so doing, they identify which items are crucial for within‐ and across‐case comparisons. Altogether, these insights should inform survey‐based approaches to detecting and describing the democratic support profiles latent in the polity.
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Keywords: Argentina; Chile; Latin America; Q‐sort methodology; democratic legitimacy; political support; survey methodology

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2018

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