Exchange: Why the Future Cannot Be Predicted

Issue Date January 2022
Volume 33
Issue 1
Page Numbers 147–55
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In recent years, public-opinion scholars have raised concerns about declining satisfaction with democracy’s performance and, in some countries, eroding democratic support. While these trends raise questions regarding democratic stability, other scholars have suggested that measures of social liberalism offer a more optimistic picture. Global levels of social-liberal values are rising, they assert, and are correlated with past democratic transitions, signaling a bright future for democracy. But this article finds little evidence of a link between social liberalism and democratization—or of liberal values rising outside of existing democracies. While there are good reasons to envisage a future wave of democratic transitions, such global-values measures cannot inform their timing, location, or rationale.

About the Authors

Roberto Stefan Foa

Roberto Stefan Foa is university lecturer in politics at the University of Cambridge, director of the YouGov-Cambridge Centre for Public Opinion Research, and co-director of the Cambridge Centre for the Future of Democracy.

View all work by Roberto Stefan Foa

Yascha Mounk

Yascha Mounk is associate professor of the practice of international affairs at Johns Hopkins University and the author of The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure (2022).

View all work by Yascha Mounk

Andrew Klassen

Andrew Klassen is director of the HUMAN Surveys project and a research associate at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at Cambridge University.

View all work by Andrew Klassen