Voting Against Autocracy
When and how do voters punish politicians for subverting democracy? In order to investigate the role of the public in democratic backsliding, we develop a conceptual framework that differentiates between three mechanisms: vote switching, backlash, and disenchantment. The first mechanism entails defection by voters from a party that undermines democracy to one that does not; the latter two mechanisms entail transitions between voting and abstention. We estimate the magnitude of each mechanism by combining evidence from a series of original survey experiments, traditional surveys, and a quasi-experiment afforded by the re-run of the 2019 Istanbul mayoral election, in which the governing party attempted to overturn the result of an election that it lost. We find that backlash and disenchantment serve as a democratic check as much as does vote switching, with each mechanism arising from a different segment of the electorate. Both persuasion and mobilization are viable tools for curbing the authoritarian tendencies of elected politicians.
The appendix can be accessed at:
Milan Svolik is Professor of Political Science at Yale University.
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