Meaning of Democracy


Survey results by topics

Perception of China  Meaning of Democracy  Detachment from Authoritarianism   Preliminary Findings


In the ABS Fourth Wave, we included four items designed to measure how respondents understand the meaning of democracy. For each item, respondents were asked to choose for one of four definitions of democracy corresponding to social equality, good governance, norms and procedures, and freedom and liberty respectively. Specifically, the survey items are:

q88: 1. Government narrows the gap between the rich and the poor. [social equality]

        2. People choose the government leaders in free and fair election. [norms and procedures]

        3. Government does not waste any public money. [good governance]

        4. People are free to express their political views openly. [freedom and liberty]

q89: 1. The legislature has oversight over the government. [norms and procedures]

        2. Basic necessities, like food, clothes and shelter, are provided for all. [socail equality]

        3. People are free to organize political groups. [freedom and liberty]

        4. Government provides people with quality public services. [good governance]

q90: 1. Government ensures law and order. [good governance]

        2. Media is free to criticize the things government does. [freedom and liberty]

        3. Government ensures job opportunities for all. [socail equality]

        4. Multiple parties compete fairly in the election. [norms and procedures]

q91: 1. People have the freedom to take part in protests and demonstrations. [freedom and liberty]

        2. Politics is clean and free of corruption. [good governance]

        3. The court protects the ordinary people from the abuse of government power. [freedom and liberty]

        4. People receive state aid if they are unemployed. [socail equality]

In the chart below, we show proportions of respondents who understand democracy in terms of good governance (red), social equality (orange), norms and procedures (blue), and freedom and liberty (green). Although the essential characteristics of a democracy center around principles and procedures in classical Western view of democracy, East Asians tend to understand the meaning of democracy in terms of substantial outcomes. In all countries except Cambodia, over 50% of respondents interpret democracy as meaning either good governance or social equality.


Source: Asian Barometer wave 4

update time: 2016/12/26