Preferences for Consensus and Majoritarian Democracy: Winners, Losers and Institutional Learning

With Mónica Ferrín

This paper analyzes individuals’ preferences for a consensus or a majoritarian type of democracy, as captured by whether they believe that single-party governments or coalition governments are best for democracy. We argue that variation in these preferences is a function of both institutional learning and the position one holds in the political systems. First, we expect that, as a result of institutional learning, individuals living in democracies characterized by coalition governments should be more likely to favor consensus democracy. Conversely, those living in countries characterized by single-party executives should be more likely to favor majoritarian democracy. Second, we expect hat individuals’ status as part of an electoral minority or majority should affect their beliefs about whether a consensual or majoritarian system is the best way in which a democracy can be institutionalized. Those who vote for small parties should favor a consensus democracy while those who vote for large party should be more supportive of majoritarian systems. Since majoritarian systems consistently block small parties though, the differences in terms of preferences for consensus vs. majoritarian democracy between the supporters of large and small parties should be larger in majoritarian political systems. We test these hypotheses drawing on data from the sixth round of the European Social Survey.

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