Learning about democracy in Africa: Awareness, performance, and experience

Type Journal Article - American Journal of Political Science
Title Learning about democracy in Africa: Awareness, performance, and experience
Volume 51
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2007
Page numbers 1-32
URL http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00245.x/full#fn6
Conventional views of African politics imply that Africans' political opinions are based either on enduring cultural values or their positions in the social structure. In contrast, we argue that Africans form attitudes to democracy based upon
what they learn about what it is and does. This learning hypothesis is tested against competing cultural, institutional, and structural theories to explain citizens' demand for democracy (legitimation) and their perceived supply of democracy (institutionalization) with data from 12 Afrobarometer attitude surveys conducted between 1999 and 2001. A multilevel model that specifies and estimates the impacts of both individual- and national-level factors provides evidence of learning
from three different sources. First, people learn about the content of democracy through cognitive awareness of public affairs. Second, people learn about the consequences of democracy through direct experience of the performance of governments
and (to a lesser extent) the economy. Finally, people draw lessons about democracy from national political legacies.

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