Globally, Broad Support for Representative and Direct Democracy
But many also endorse nondemocratic alternatives
Pew Research Center, 16/10/2017
A deepening anxiety about the future of democracy around the world has spread over the past few years. Emboldened autocrats and rising populists have shaken assumptions about the future trajectory of liberal democracy, both in nations where it has yet to flourish and countries where it seemed strongly entrenched. Scholars have documented a global “democratic recession,” and some now warn that even long-established “consolidated” democracies could lose their commitment to freedom and slip toward more authoritarian politics.
A 38-nation Pew Research Center survey finds there are reasons for calm as well as concern when it comes to democracy’s future. More than half in each of the nations polled consider representative democracy a very or somewhat good way to govern their country. Yet, in all countries, pro-democracy attitudes coexist, to varying degrees, with openness to nondemocratic forms of governance, including rule by experts, a strong leader or the military.
A number of factors affect the depth of the public’s commitment to representative democracy over nondemocratic options. People in wealthier nations and in those that have more fully democratic systems tend to be more committed to representative democracy. And in many nations, people with less education, those who are on the ideological right and those who are dissatisfied with the way democracy is currently working in their country are more willing to consider nondemocratic alternatives.
At the same time, majorities in nearly all nations also embrace another form of democracy that places less emphasis on elected representatives. A global median of 66% say direct democracy – in which citizens, rather than elected officials, vote on major issues – would be a good way to govern. This idea is especially popular among Western European populists.
These are among the major findings of a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 41,953 respondents in 38 countries from Feb. 16 to May 8, 2017.
The survey reveals that large numbers in many nations would entertain political systems that are inconsistent with liberal democracy. For instance, when asked about a system in which experts, not elected representatives, make key decisions based on what they think is best for the country, a median of 49% across these 38 countries say this would be a good way to run their nation.
Unconstrained executive power also has its supporters. In 20 countries, a quarter or more of those polled think a system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts is a good form of government. This type of regime is particularly popular in several nations where executives have extended or consolidated their power in recent years, such as the Philippines, Russia and Turkey.
While military rule is the least popular political system tested on the survey, even this finds some support across the globe. Notable minorities in many nations consider it a good way to govern, and half or more express this view in Vietnam, Indonesia, India and South Africa.
Shallow commitment to representative democracy
To examine the public’s support of representative democracy over nondemocratic alternatives, we constructed a commitment to representative democracy index. (The index does not include the question about direct democracy.) Respondents are classified as “committed democrats” if they support a system in which elected representatives govern but do not support rule by experts, a strong leader or the military (i.e., nondemocratic governments). Respondents who say a representative democracy is good but also support at least one nondemocratic form of government are classified as “less-committed democrats.” And those who do not support representative democracy and instead support at least one nondemocratic form of government are classified as “non-democrats.”
Roughly a quarter of people (median of 23%) across the 38 countries surveyed are committed democrats. About twice as many (median of 47%) are less-committed democrats. Relatively few (13%) are nondemocratic. A small share (8%) does not endorse any of these forms of governance.
Commitment to representative democracy is strongest in North America and Europe. A median of 37% across the 10 European Union nations polled, as well as 40% in the United States and 44% in Canada, support democracy while rejecting nondemocratic forms of government. Australia is the only country outside of North America and Europe where at least four-in-ten are categorized as committed democrats.
Sweden (52%) shows the strongest level of commitment of all countries surveyed, with roughly half holding this view. By contrast, Russia (7%) has the lowest percentage of committed democrats.
A median of 27% in the Middle East and North Africa are classified as committed to representative democracy. In this region, Israelis (36%) and Jordanians (33%) are most likely to prefer democracy to nondemocratic forms of government. But roughly one-in-five or fewer are committed to representative democracy in Latin America (median of 19%), sub-Saharan Africa (median of 18%) and the Asia-Pacific (median of 15%).
Those in more democratic, wealthier nations are more committed to representative democracy
In general, public commitment to representative democracy is highest in countries that have a well-functioning democracy. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index is one measure of how democratic a country is. The EIU index ranks countries from 0 to 10, where 0 indicates an authoritarian regime and 10 represents a full democracy. The ranking is based on 60 indicators of a country’s performance across five categories: the electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture. The index is closely correlated with our classification of committed democrats. For example, the Netherlands is ranked higher on the EIU index with a score of 8.8, and 47% of the Dutch can be described as committed supporters of representative democracy. Meanwhile, Nigeria has a democracy index score of 4.5 and just 11% of Nigerians meet the committed democrat criteria.
The above scatterplot also reveals another pattern: Countries that are classified as more fully democratic and that have a higher percentage of the public committed to representative democracy also tend to be wealthier. In the scatterplot, the countries are color-coded by their economic ranking from the World Bank, which classifies countries into four income categories based on their per-capita gross national income: high, upper-middle, lower-middle and low income. The group of countries in the upper-right-hand corner of the scatterplot – where the Democracy Index ranking and the percentage of committed democrats are highest – are all upper-income countries.
Even in rich, well-established democracies, nondemocratic models find some support
Although commitment to representative democracy is relatively high in wealthy, strong democracies, notable minorities in these types of countries are open to nondemocratic alternatives.
Rule by experts has considerable appeal in many of these nations, with roughly half or more in Hungary, South Korea, Poland, Spain Japan, Israel and Chile suggesting this could be a good way of running their country.
There is less support for a strong leader who can make decisions without interference from a parliament or courts. Still, about a quarter or more back this idea in Japan, Italy, the United Kingdom, Israel, Hungary, South Korea and the U.S. And while military rule is relatively unpopular, 17% endorse this idea in the established democracies of the U.S., Italy and France.
Education, ideology key drivers of support for nondemocratic alternatives
At the individual level, education has a large impact on attitudes about governance. In 22 of the countries surveyed, people with higher levels of education are more likely than those with less education to be classified as committed to representative democracy.1
Among the three types of nondemocratic governments asked about, the education gap is largest on rule by the military. People with less education are more likely than those with more education to say a military government would be a good thing in 23 countries. In 18 of these countries, the gap is at least 10 percentage points. For example, in the U.S., 24% of people with a secondary education or less say rule by the military would be good for their country, compared with 7% of those with more than a secondary education.
There are also significant ideological and partisan divides in many of these countries on the questions about nondemocratic alternatives. Support for a strong, unchecked leader, for example, is significantly more common on the ideological right in Australia, Italy, the UK, the U.S., Canada, Greece and Germany.
The strong leader model also finds backing in Italy among those favorable to Forza Italia, the political party of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – 43% of those with a favorable view of the party endorse this approach to governing. In Britain, it is more popular among those with a positive opinion of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
And in the U.S., a third of Republicans say a strong leader who can govern without interference from other branches of government is a good thing, compared with 20% of independents and 17% of Democrats.
Satisfaction with democracy’s performance is tied to partisanship, the economy
In 26 of the 38 countries surveyed, people who are satisfied with their democracy are more likely to support representative democracy as a form of government. In turn, satisfaction with democracy varies considerably across regions and countries, and even within countries. People’s evaluations of democracy’s functioning differ considerably based on their economic attitudes and partisan orientations.
Overall, a global median of 46% say they are satisfied with the way democracy is working in their country, while 52% are not. Satisfaction is most common in Asia-Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa, and least common in Latin America. In Europe, opinions vary widely across nations. More than seven-in-ten are happy with their democracy in Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany. But two-thirds or more are unhappy in Italy, Spain and Greece – all southern European nations that have struggled economically over the past decade.
Views about the economy are strongly related to satisfaction with democracy. In nearly every country, people who say the national economy is currently doing well are more likely than those who say it is doing poorly to be satisfied with the political system. In 29 of 36 countries, the gap in democratic satisfaction between those who are happy with the economy and those who are unhappy is at least 20 percentage points.
The gap is largest in Venezuela – a nation beset by economic difficulties – where 72% of those who think the economy is in good shape are satisfied with how democracy is working, compared with only 14% among Venezuelans who say the economic situation is bad.
European countries also tend to have some of the largest differences on satisfaction with democracy between those who think the economy is doing well and those who do not, including gaps of more than 50 percentage points in Sweden and Hungary.
Satisfaction with the way democracy is working is also tied to how people see the past and the future. In 35 nations, satisfaction is lower among those who think life for people like themselves is worse today than it was 50 years ago. In 34 countries, satisfaction is lower among those who believe children growing up today will be financially worse off than their parents.
In addition, people who support the party in power are much more likely to say they are satisfied with the way democracy is working in their country. For example, overall, 46% in the U.S. are satisfied with how democracy is working. However, fully 68% of Republicans hold this view, compared with just 49% of independents and 31% of Democrats.
1. Many unhappy with current political system
Public attitudes about the political system broadly and the national government specifically vary considerably around the world, though many are critical. Opinions are closely related to the status of the economy and domestic politics. Publics who have experienced high economic growth and are happy with their country’s economy are more confident in their national government. Similarly, people who support the governing party or parties in their country tend to give more positive evaluations of their democracy than those who support either the opposition or no political party at all.
Mixed reviews of the way democracy is working
Publics around the globe are generally unhappy with the functioning of their nations’ political systems. Across the 36 countries asked the question, a global median of 46% say they are very or somewhat satisfied with the way their democracy is working, compared with 52% who are not too or not at all satisfied.
Levels of satisfaction vary considerably by region and within regions. Overall, people in the Asia-Pacific region are the most happy with their democracies. At least half in five of the six Asian nations where this question was asked express satisfaction. Only in South Korea is a majority unhappy (69%). The survey in South Korea was conducted in February and March of this year, amid the corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of then-President Park Geun-hye.
People in sub-Saharan Africa also tend to be more satisfied than others around the world with the performance of their political system. Majorities in Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal and Kenya say their democracy is working well. South Africans and Nigerians, however, are more dissatisfied.
Elsewhere, satisfaction with democracy is considerably lower. In North America, 70% of Canadians say they think their political system is working well, but Americans are divided. Just under half in the U.S. (46%) are happy with their democracy and 51% are unhappy.
While broad majorities in Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany say their political system is functioning well, roughly half of British and Poles say the same. Nearly two-thirds or more in southern Europe are unhappy with their democracies, including 79% in Greece.
Similarly, majorities in most countries surveyed in the Middle East and Latin America express disappointment with how democracy is working in their nation. Mexicans and Lebanese are the most dissatisfied, with at least nine-in-ten in each country who say their current political system is not working well.
In many countries, partisanship has a significant impact on attitudes about the functioning of democracy. People who identify with the current governing party or parties are significantly more satisfied with their political system than those who either support the opposition or identify with no political party (see Appendix for how governing party supporters were coded). For example, in the U.S., 68% of people who identify with the Republican Party say they are satisfied with their democracy, while just 40% of Americans who do not identify with the Republican Party say the same.
The partisan divisions over the functioning of democracy are particularly large in Europe. Of the 10 countries surveyed in the region, six publics exhibit a gap of at least 20 percentage points in democratic satisfaction between those who identify with the governing party or parties and those who do not. Outside of Europe, the partisan divisions on this question are largest in Venezuela (43 points), Israel (39) and Nigeria (38).
Lack of trust in national government
Attitudes about the functioning of democracy are closely tied to publics’ trust in their national government. People who are satisfied with how democracy works in their country also tend to say they trust the national government to do what is right for the country. Given that, the global distribution of trust in national governments is very similar to attitudes about the political system more broadly. People in the Asia-Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa regions are more positive about their national government than others around the world, while publics in the Middle East, Latin America and southern Europe are especially negative.
Still, some countries stand out for their lack of trust. A global median of 14% say they trust their national government a lot to do what is right for the country. While this percentage is quite low, 5% or less of the public expresses this level of confidence in their national government in 10 of 37 countries asked the question: Spain, Chile, Peru, France, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Lebanon, Italy and Greece.
As with democratic satisfaction, attitudes about the national government are deeply partisan. In 30 of the 37 countries, people who identify with the governing party express more trust in the government than those who do not identify with the leading party. In 13 countries, the partisan gap is 30 percentage points or more.
Another key political driver of attitudes about the national government in Europe is support for populist parties. In many European countries, where rising populist sentiment has upended traditional political dynamics, people who have favorable views of populist parties are considerably more skeptical of the national government than those who have an unfavorable attitude toward these parties. The difference is largest in Germany: 65% of those who have a positive view of the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) say they trust the national government not much or not at all, compared with just 24% of those who have a negative view of the party.
Moreover, most of the difference in trust between populist party supporters and their fellow countrymen comes in saying they trust the government “not at all.” In France, broad majorities of both those who like the National Front (FN) and those who do not say they lack trust in the government (90% and 76%, respectively). But among National Front supporters, 71% say they trust the government not at all, compared with 35% of people who have an unfavorable view of FN.
People in more rapidly growing economies more trusting of government
In addition to politics, the status of the economy is strongly related to people’s trust in their government. Publics that have experienced a higher level of economic growth over the past five years tend to have more confidence in their national government to do the right thing for their country. For example, in India, where the economy has grown on average by 6.9% since 2012, 85% trust their national government. Meanwhile, just 26% of Italians have confidence in their government; their economy has contracted over the past five years (-0.5% average GDP growth).
This pattern appears at the individual level as well. Within each country, people who say the economy is doing well are more likely to trust the national government than those who say the economy is bad. In 29 of the 37 countries asked the question, the trust gap between those who are happy with the economy and those who are unhappy is at least 20 percentage points. As with partisan divisions on this question, European countries tend to have some of the largest differences between those who think the economy is good and those who do not.
2. Democracy widely supported, little backing for rule by strong leader or military
Governance can take many forms: by elected representatives, through direct votes by citizens, by a strong leader, the military or those with particular expertise. Some form of democracy is the public’s preference.
“The effect of [a representative democracy] is … to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country,” wrote James Madison in the Federalist Papers No. 10 in 1787 as Americans debated the nature of their new government. And a democratic system where representatives elected by citizens decide what becomes law is now the mode of governance in one form or another in most of the 38 countries included in the 2017 Pew Research Center survey.
A global median of 78% back government by elected representatives. But the intensity of this support varies significantly between nations. Roughly six-in-ten Ghanaians (62%), 54% of Swedes and 53% of Senegalese and Tanzanians hold the view that representative democracy is very good. Just 8% of Brazilians and 9% of Mexicans agree. The only countries where there is significantly strong opposition to representative democracy are Colombia (24% say it is very bad) and Tunisia (23% very bad).
In many countries, skepticism of representative democracy is tied to negative views about economic conditions. In 19 countries, people who say their national economies are in bad shape are less likely to believe representative democracy is good for the country.
In 23 nations, the belief that representative democracy is good is less common among people who think life is worse today than it was 50 years ago. In Spain, for example, just 63% of those who believe life is worse than before consider representative democracy a good thing for their country, compared with 80% who support representative democracy among those who say life is better than it was a half century ago.
Similarly, pessimism about the next generation is related to negative views about representative democracy. In roughly half the nations surveyed those who think today’s children will be worse off financially than their parents are less likely than others to say representative democracy is a good form of government. Among Mexicans who believe the next generation will be worse off, only 52% say representative democracy is good for the country. Backing for government by elected representatives is at 72% among those who say children will be better off than their parents.
Attitudes toward representative democracy are also associated with opinions about diversity. In more than a third of the nations surveyed those who think that having people of many different backgrounds – such as different ethnic groups, religions and races – makes their country a worse place to live are less likely than others to support government by elected representatives. In South Africa, a country with a troubled history of racial oppression and conflict, 73% of those who embrace diversity describe representative democracy as a good thing for their country; just 54% agree among those who say diversity makes South Africa a worse place to live.
Many publics want a direct say
Direct democracy, a governing system where citizens, not elected officials, vote directly on major national issues, is supported by roughly two-thirds of the public around the world, with little difference in views between regions.
The strongest support for governing through referenda is found in Turkey (84%), where 53% of the public say it would be very good to have citizens vote on major national issues. Lebanon (83%) and Kenya (80%) also show broad support for direct democracy.
There is also strong backing for such governance in Japan (65%) even though the country has not had a referendum in the post-World War II era.
In the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands, people with a high school education or less are more likely than those with more than a high school education to support direct democracy. Such differences are small in the U.S. (6 percentage points) and Germany (8 points) but there is a 17-point differential in the Netherlands (62% of those with less educational attainment back direct democracy, but only 45% of those with more education agree).
In six of seven Latin American nations surveyed, those with a secondary school education or above are more supportive of direct democracy than those with less than a high school education. This educational divide is 16 points in Chile and 14 points in Argentina and Colombia. In each of these countries, those with less education are less likely to hold an opinion of direct democracy.
In Latin America, there is also a generation gap in views of direct democracy. In Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Venezuela, those ages 18 to 29 are more supportive than those ages 50 and older of having citizens, not elected officials, vote directly on issues of major national importance.
Notably, in the U.S. it is people ages 30 to 49 who are most likely (73%) to back referenda.
In other countries there are sharp divisions along religious or ethnic lines. In Israel it is Arabs (83%) more than Jews (54%) who favor direct democracy, and in Nigeria it is Muslims (70%) more than Christians (55%).
Supporters of some populist parties in Europe are particularly enthusiastic about direct democracy. In Spain, 88% of those who hold a favorable view of Podemos say citizens voting on national issues would be good for the country. In Germany, 84% of AfD backers agree, as do 77% of PVV supporters in the Netherlands.
Support for direct democracy can also be seen in other recent Pew Research Center findings in Europe. In the wake of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, a median of just 18% in nine continental EU member states say they want their country to exit the EU. But 53% support holding a national vote on their own country’s EU membership.
And such support is particularly strong among backers of Euroskeptic populist parties, many of whom have promised their supporters a referendum on EU membership. (For more on European’s attitudes about staying in the EU, see Post-Brexit, Europeans More Favorable Toward EU.)
And in six of the nine continental European nations surveyed, strong majorities of those who believe that direct democracy is a very good form of governance support their own EU membership referendum.
Technocracy has its champions
The value of expert opinion has been questioned in the eyes of the public in recent years. But when asked whether a governing system in which experts, not elected officials, make decisions would be a good or bad approach, publics around the world are divided: 49% say that would be a good idea, 46% think it would be a bad thing.
Europeans (a median of 43%) and Americans (40%) are the least supportive. But among Europeans, roughly two-thirds of Hungarians (68%) say leaving decision-making to experts would be a good way to govern.
Asian-Pacific publics generally back rule by experts, particularly people in Vietnam (67%), India (65%) and the Philippines (62%). Only Australians are notably wary: 57% say it would be a bad way to govern, and only 41% support governance by experts.
More than half of Africans surveyed also say governing by experts would be a good thing for their country. Nigerians (65%) are especially supportive. And it is Nigerian Muslims more than Christians who say this.
Young people in a number of advanced economies are particularly attracted to technocracy. In the U.S. the age gap is 10 percentage points – 46% of those ages 18 to 29 but only 36% of those ages 50 and older say it would be good if experts, not elected officials, made decisions. The young-old differential is even greater in Australia (19 points), Japan (18 points), the UK (14 points), Sweden (13 points) and Canada (13 points).
Some support for rule by strong leader
Rule by a strong leader is generally unpopular, though minorities of a substantial size back it. A global median of 26% say a system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts would be a good way of governing. Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) say it would be a bad type of governance.
Opposition is particularly widespread in Europe (a median of 86% oppose rule by a strong leader), with strong opposition in Germany (93%), Sweden (90%) and the Netherlands (89%).
But autocracy is not universally opposed. Roughly four-in-ten Italians (43%) who have a favorable view of Forza Italia, the political party founded by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and a similar share of the British (42%) who favor UKIP say a strong leader making decisions would be good for their country. Nearly half of Russians (48%) back governance by a strong leader.
In Asia, 55% of Indians, 52% of Indonesians and 50% of Filipinos favor autocracy. Such support is particularly intense in India, where 27% very strongly back a strong leader.
Public views of rule by a strong leader are relevant in countries that have experienced degrees of authoritarianism in recent years. Roughly eight-in-ten Venezuelans (81%) and 71% of Hungarians oppose a strong leader who makes decisions without interference of parliament or the courts.
Rule by a strong leader also appeals to older members of the public in some countries. More than a quarter of Hungarians (29%) and South Koreans (34%) ages 50 and older favor governance by a strong leader.
In advanced economies there is little overall backing for autocracy. But, where such support does exist, it is often people with a secondary education or below who are more likely than those with more education to favor autocratic rule. This educational divide is particularly wide in the UK (19 percentage points), the U.S. (15 points), Poland and South Korea (both 13 points).
In a number of nations there is a significant division of opinion about strong leaders based on ideology. Those who place themselves on the right of the ideological spectrum are more likely than those who place themselves on the left to say a strong leader making decisions would be a good way of governing. The ideological gap is 20 percentage points in South Korea and Australia and 16 points in Italy and the UK. Notably, in Venezuela, which has been ruled by populist, left-wing strongmen, those on the left are more supportive of autocratic rule than those on the right.
Significant minorities support military rule
There is minority support for a governing system in which the military rules the country: a median of 24% in the 38 nations surveyed. At least four-in-ten Africans (46%) and Asians (41%) see value in a government run by the generals and admirals.
The strongest backing is in Vietnam (70%), where the army has long played a pivotal role in governance in close collaboration with the Communist Party, especially in the 1960s and 70s during the war with the United States. Some of this may be nostalgia for the past: By two-to-one (46% to 23%) Vietnamese ages 50 and older are more likely than those ages 18 to 29 to say military rule would be very good for their country.
Notably, roughly half of both Indians (53%) and South Africans (52%), who live in nations that often hold themselves up as democratic exemplars for their regions, say military rule would be a good thing for their countries. But in these societies, older people (those ages 50 and older) are the least supportive of the army running the country, and they are the ones who either personally experienced the struggle to establish democratic rule or are the immediate descendants of those democratic pioneers. In South Africa, blacks (55%) more than whites (38%) also favor the military making governance decisions.
Only one-in-ten Europeans back military rule. But some on the populist right of the political spectrum voice such support. Nearly a third of those who hold a favorable view of the National Front in France (31%) say a governing system in which the military rules the country would be a good thing, as do nearly a quarter of those who favor UKIP in the United Kingdom (23%).
Support for a governing system in which the military rules the country enjoys backing among people with less education in at least half the countries surveyed, with some of the strongest support among those with less than a secondary education in Africa and Latin America.
More than half of Peruvians with less than a high school education (55%) prefer military rule. Only about a third (32%) of more educated Peruvians agree.
Particularly strong backing for military rule also exists among the less educated in Vietnam (76%), Nigeria (57%), Kenya (49%) and the Philippines (47%).
Notably, one-in-five of those ages 50 and older in the U.S. support military rule, as do roughly one-in-four Japanese (24%) ages 18 to 29.
Ideology also plays a role in public views of military rule. But it can cut both ways. In some countries, people on the right of the political spectrum are significantly more supportive of military governance than those on the left, especially in Chile. In Hungary and Venezuela, on the other hand, it is more likely to be individuals on the left who see value in military rule.
This report is a collaborative effort based on the input and analysis of the following individuals.
Richard Wike, Director, Global Attitudes Research
Katie Simmons, Associate Director, Research
Bruce Stokes, Director, Global Economic Attitudes
Janell Fetterolf, Research Associate
Chris Baronavski, Senior Developer
James Bell, Vice President, Global Strategy
Caldwell Bishop, Research Associate
Hanyu Chwe, Research Assistant
Stefan Cornibert, Communications Manager
Danielle Cuddington, Research Analyst
Claudia Deane, Vice President, Research
Courtney Johnson, Research Associate
Michael Keegan, Information Graphics Designer
David Kent, Copy Editor
Dorothy Manevich, Research Analyst
Patrick Moynihan, Associate Director, International Research Methods
Courtney Nelson, Research Assistant
Jacob Poushter, Senior Researcher
Audrey Powers, Administrative Manager
Ariana Rodriguez-Gitler, Digital Producer
Steve Schwarzer, Senior Research Methodologist
Laura Silver, Senior Researcher
Rhonda Stewart, Senior Communications Manager
Iva Stoyneva, User Experience Specialist
Kyle Taylor, Research Assistant
Margaret Vice, Senior Researcher
About the Pew Research Center’s Spring 2017 Global Attitudes Survey
Results for the survey are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews conducted under the direction of D3 Systems, Inc., ORB International, Princeton Survey Research Associates International, Kantar Public UK and Voices! Research & Consultancy. The results are based on national samples, unless otherwise noted. More details about our international survey methodology and country-specific sample designs are available here.
Appendix: Political categorization
For this report, we grouped people into two political categories: those who support the governing political party (or parties) and those who do not. These categories were coded based upon the party or parties in power at the time the survey was fielded and respondents’ answers to a question asking them which political party, if any, they identified with in their country.1
In countries where multiple political parties govern in coalition (as in many European countries), survey respondents who indicated support for any parties in the coalition were grouped together. In Germany, for example, where the center-right CDU/CSU governed with the center-left SPD at the time of the survey, supporters of all three parties were grouped together. In countries where different political parties occupy the executive and legislative branches of government, the party holding the executive branch was considered the governing party.
Survey respondents who did not indicate support for any political party, or who refused to identify with one, were considered to be not supporting the government in power. In the United States, for example, only those who supported the Republican Party were considered to be supporters of the governing party. Democrats, independents and those who don’t know which party they feel closest to were considered non-supporters of the governing party.
In some countries, no respondents identified with one or more of the parties currently in a coalition government. For example, the National Democratic Alliance in India officially consists of dozens of political parties, but many of those were not identified by any respondent as the party they felt closest to. Countries where an insufficient number of people identified with any party in government have been excluded from the analysis. Below is a table that outlines the governing political parties in each country; only political parties mentioned by respondents are shown.