The Puzzle of Authoritarian Legitimacy

Issue Date January 2020
Volume 31
Issue 1
Page Numbers 158-168
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Data from the Asian Barometer Survey show that among fourteen countries surveyed in Waves III and IV (2010–2016), authoritarian regimes enjoy higher Diffuse Regime Support than do democratic regimes. The essay explores the impact on legitimacy of four causal factors: governmental economic and political performance, propaganda, nationalism, and culture. Traditional Social Values (TSV) tend to increase regime legitimacy and Liberal Democratic Values (LDV) to reduce it in both kinds of systems. Persons who adhere to LDV, however, are more likely to be alienated from authoritarian than from democratic regimes—and adherence to these values is increasing across the region as modernization advances.

About the Author

Andrew J. Nathan is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and a member of the steering committee of the Asian Barometer Survey. His books include China’s Search for Security (with Andrew Scobell, 2012).

View all work by Andrew J. Nathan