Testing the churchill hypothesis: Popular support for democracy and its alternatives

Richard Rose, William Mishler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Whereas many studies of democratization evaluate it in idealist terms, Winston Churchill offered a relativist criterion, democracy being a lesser evil compared to other types of regime. Since everyone in a post-Communist society has lived in at least two different regimes, the New Democracies Barometer survey of post-Communist countries can ask people to evaluate five alternative regimes: a return to Communist rule, the army taking over, monarchy, rule by a strong leader, and decision making by economic experts. Factor analysis shows endorsement of three alternatives - the return to Communism, army rule, and personal dictatorship - form an authoritarianism scale. It also shows support for authoritarian rule is confined to a minority. Five hypotheses are tested to see what accounts for this. The political legacy of the past is more important than current government performance, economic attitudes, social structure differences, and national culture and traditions. Endorsement of economic technocrats making decisions is not related to authoritarianism; it reflects some national differences. Given the importance of experiencing both democratic and undemocratic regimes, the Churchill hypothesis does not apply in a country that has not yet attempted to introduce democratic institutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-58
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Public Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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