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Bratton, Mattes, and Gyimah-Boadi: Public opinion, democracy, and market reform in Africa

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Bratton, Mattes, and Gyimah-Boadi. 2005. Public opinion, democracy, and market reform in Africa. Cambridge.

Overview

By reviewing Afrobaromter data, the authors see African public opinion as both a cause and a consequence of political and economic reform. The authors examine demand for democracy, perceived supply of democracy, demand for market reforms, and perceived supply of market reforms. They see demand for democracy as "largely intrinsic (as a goal valued in and of itself)," but "evaluations of the supply of economic reform are highly instrumental" (i.e. they depend on "improvements in the material conditions of life") (p 10).

Chapter 1: Framework

Africa's Hybrid Regimes

As shown in Table 1.1 (p 17), African countries vary dramatically in their commitment to democracy. Similarly, they vary in their degree of compliance with (IMF and World Bank) economic reform programs (see Table 1.2, p 23). Empirically, political and economic reform appear to coincide: those that successfully introduced democracy also successfully followed through on reforms (p 24).

Consolidation: Demand and Supply

Consolidation is a fuzzy concept. Institutionalists see considation occurring when everything happens according to the accepted institutional rules. Culturalists, on the other hand, look for evidence of democratic norms and values, and a readiness to defend democracy if it is threatened.

The authors claim that consolidation occurs when "popular demands for democracy [are] accompanied by a supply of democratic institutions provided mainly, though not exclusively, by political elites" (p 29). An equilibrium of supply and demand represents consolidation. "Only if citizens perceive that democratic institutions are being supplied ... can we infer that their country's regime is consolidating as a democracy" (p 30). [Schaffer might have a problem with this.]

[Critique: this is weird. This equilibrium would measure only regime stability, not democratic stability. It assumes that people actually demand democracy. But see authors' concession on p 28.]

The authors, then, make five points about consolidation:

  1. People both say they prefer democracy, and they reject the possibility of authoritarian alternatives.
  2. They recognize that no democracy is perfect.
  3. Different sectors of the state may liberalize at different speeds. This book focuses on liberalization within the "sub-regime of public opinion" (p 29).
  4. Although Prz et al dismiss the notion of consolidation, the authors disagree.
  5. The authors pay lip service to being against a teleological transition paradigm.

Chapter 11: Attitudes about reform

The authors seek to combine findings from previous chapters into a single model of African attitudes. They generally argue for "a learning theory of cognitive rationality" (p 272): Africans' cognitive response to adult experiences with reform determines their attitudes more than anything else does, although the authors do leave room for other factors (especially institutional and social factors).

Demand for Democracy (Table 11.1, p 273)

Cognitive factors affect people's demand for democracy. "Popular demand for democracy is primarily a product of citizens who are mentally engaged with public affairs" (p274). In particular, if they perceive democracy as a system of checks and balances, they are most likely to demand democracy.

There are some other influences. Social factors, like membership in the postcolonial and postdemocratic generations, certainly contribute to a higher demand for democracy.

Perceived Supply of Democracy (Table 11.2, p 278)

  • Y: A combination of the perceived extent of democracy and popular satisfaction with democracy.
  • Performance evaluations have the strongest influence on perceived supply of democracy. People who approve of the president, see recent elections as free and fair, and are pleased with economic performance are more likely to see their country as democratic.
    • Critique: If Y includes "satisfaction with democracy," is it really surprising that perceived performance correlates with this?

Demand for Market Economy (Table 11.4, p 283)

  • Again, cognitive awareness is dominant. Media exposure, formal education, and awareness of politics have effects on demand for market economy. But this regression has terrible predictive power (adj R2 = 0.114). The authors conclude that Africans "remain disturbingly unfamiliar with the principles of economic liberalization" (p 282).
  • Interestingly, evaluations of the economy's performance do not influence demand for a market economy.

Perceived Supply of a Market Economy (Table 11.5, p 287)

  • As with supply of democracy, this regression is driven by performance evaluations. People who approve of the economy, the president, and the status of political rights see the government as supplying a better market economy (well duh). Cognitive awareness also matters: People who are aware of the structural adjustment program see it in a better light.

Chapter 12: Predicting political participation

The authors take a chapter to see whether their data allow them to predict (self-reported) voting, participation in protests, and other types of political involvement (Table 12.1, p 297).

Voting

  • Social variables are paramount here: Voters are older, employed, and rural. Institutional factors also matter: party members and people who have contacted somebody influential are more likely to vote [not clear why these are "institutional" and not "social"]. Cognitive factors have little effect.