Evolution of Democratic Ideas


The main premise of this research pillar is that the rise of democracy over the last two centuries was an ideational as well as institutional paradigm shift. The concept of 'democracy' was historically a pejorative term – equated with mob rule – in mainstream political discourse in the early nineteenth century. Today, to call something democratic is to bestow upon it the highest form of political legitimacy. How, when and why did this shift in discourse occur? Research in this area uses a variety of methods including statistical text analysis trace the ideational development of democracy across a range of democracies (e.g. Britain, the United States, France, Germany). For example, we investigate how German and British Members of Parliament in the 19th century talk about democracy, showing how and when MPS became gradually more positive in their usage of 'democracy' over the course of the nineteenth century and how the idea transformed from a dangerous into a popular.  A second face of this research program will be investigate recent innovations and changes in how citizens and political elites conceive of—and justify—democracy.


"What is Democracy (To You)? Understanding Democratic Reasoning Across Partisan Divides"
Researchers: Sebastian Hellmeier, Vanessa Boese, Daniel Ziblatt

Project on Change of ‘Meaning’ of Democracy in historical German MP speeches (1871-Present)
Researchers: Aditya Dasgupta (University of California, Merced), Fabio Ellger 

Project on Change of Meaning of democracy in candidate manifestos in Britain (1832-Present)
Researchers: Aditya Dasgupta (University of California, Merced), Fabio Ellger 

Do Politicians Discriminate Against Constituents with an Immigration Background? Field Experimental Evidence from Germany
Researchers: Jeyhun Alizade, Fabio Ellger 

The Electoral Consequences of New Political Actors: Evidence from the German Greens 
Researchers: Tom Arend, Fabio Ellger, Antonio Valentim

"Elite Cues and the Erosion of the Anti-Prejudice Norm" 
Researchers: Elias Dinas, Vicente Valentim, John Chua, and Daniel Ziblatt

German Political Identity
Researchers: Prof. Daniel Ziblatt, Ph.D.
Cooperation partners:
Elias Dinas, Ph.D., EUI
Vasiliki Fouka, Ph.D., Stanford University