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Weil, 1989, The Sources and Structure of Legitimation in Western Democracies, ASR


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Both new-left and neo-conservative theorists argue that poor state performance can lead to a legitimation crisis, but they neglect distinctions among different forms of political support and objective conditions that citizens evaluate. I propose a theoretical model that distinguishes between (a) confidence in institutions and legitimation of democracy and (b) state performance and the structure of opposition (party systems, governing coalitions). I test the model with data located in an extensive new search of survey archives in six Western countries. The results show that poor state performance leads to a decline of confidence, but not a softening of support for democracy. Problems in the structure of opposition lead to a decline of both confidence and support for democracy. In the conclusion, I speculate whether state performance might affect democratic legitimacy in a less straightforward fashion.

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