Economic development and democracy: An electoral connection

by Carl Henrik Knutsen, John Gerring, Svend-Erik Skaaning, Jan Teorell, Matthew Maguire, Michael Coppedge, and Staffan I. Lindber

Published in European Journal of Political Research, online 27 April 2018


Scholars continue to debate whether economic development affects regime type. This article argues that a clear relationship exists between development and the electoral component of democracy, but not – or at least less so – between development and other components of broader understandings of democracy. This is so because development enhances the power resources of citizens and elections provide a focal point for collective action. The theory is tested with two new datasets – Varieties of Democracy and Lexical Index of Electoral Democracy – that allow us to disaggregate the concept of democracy into meso‐ and micro‐level indicators. Results of these tests corroborate the theory: only election‐centred indicators are robustly associated with economic development. This may help to account for apparent inconsistencies across extant studies and shed light on the mechanisms at work in a much‐studied relationship. Further analysis shows that development affects electoral democracy by reducing electoral fraud, election violence and vote buying.


Full text for subscribers at Wiley Online Library

Published May 3, 2018 4:04 PM - Last modified May 3, 2018 4:04 PM