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Democracy by Example? Why Democracy Spreads When the World's Democracies Prosper

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Does a positive association between democracy and economic growth around the world encourage the spread of democracy? Although this intuitive relationship has been linked to the global ebb and flow of fascism and Communism, no study has empirically tested this question. I argue that democracy’s relative economic success in the world influences perceptions of its domestic advantages and thereby shifts popular and elite preferences in favor of democracy. Looking at 172 countries from 1820–2010, I show that the world-level correlation between democracy and economic growth robustly predicts the spread of democracy and represents a major source of its historical advance. The results provide new insights into the foreign influences on democratization, China’s challenge to the liberal democratic order, and the political legacy of the global financial crisis.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2016

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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