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Do the Rich and the Poor Have Different Conceptions of Democracy? Socioeconomic Status, Inequality, and the Political Status Quo

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In this study, we investigate how socioeconomic status is related to people’s commitment to liberal democracy. Based on sociological and psychological theories of social conflict and dominance, we argue that those who enjoy a more privileged position in the social hierarchy tend to develop stronger preferences for the existing social and political order. Conversely, people in underprivileged positions tend to be less supportive of that order. Hence, we expect the relationship between socioeconomic status and commitment to liberal democracy to be context-specific: positive in liberal democracies but negative in autocracies. Furthermore, we argue that income inequality amplifies these dynamics, widening the gap between low and high status individuals. We test our hypotheses using the fifth wave of the World Value Surveys.

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Appeared or available online: September 17, 2019

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