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Photo: “September2019jakartademo3“, by JahlilMA, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Hue modified from the original

Fossati, Diego, Burhanuddin Muhtadi, and Eve Warburton. “Why democrats abandon democracy: Evidence from four survey experiments.” Party Politics (2021): 1354068821992488.


In several world regions, democracy is in retreat. This retreat is taking place amid growing polarization in many countries, and analysts are increasingly concerned with the role that deepening political divisions play in processes of democratic decline. This article investigates the relationship between partisan polarization and deteriorating public support for democratic institutions. It leverages the case of Indonesia, a major third-wave democracy now in the midst of a democratic regression. Indonesia’s political landscape has become more ideologically polarized in recent years, despite the strength of clientelist networks and low levels of party identification. Using four survey experiments, we find that Indonesians embrace illiberal interventions and abandon democratic institutions when exposed to party and leadership cues. These results suggest that political polarization may prompt citizens to abandon democratic norms even in democracies without strong partisan identities.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.