Michael Bratton et. al. Public Opinion, Democracy and Market Reform in Africa (2004).

Main Argument:

The primary value of this text is its discussion of and explanations for attitudes regarding political and economic reform in Africa. The authors consider the extent to which democratic political reforms and economic liberalization have taken hold both in the supply of such reforms and the demand for them. Overall, the authors find that support for democracy in Africa is high and that institutional, not cultural factors influence public opinion on the subject of democracy.

 

Method: Large N Survey data on public opinion.

Data: Afrobarometer survey. The authors are the co-founders and co-directors of the Afrobarometer, a project initiated in the late 1990s to ascertain Africans opinions on a range of political and economic issues.

 

 

== Notes ==

 

 

– Africans define democracy in liberal terms, prefer democratic regimes, and give civil and political freedoms precedence over economic goods when evaluating their governments

– The assumption, following Lipset, is that democracy and market capitalism are largely complementary

– Focus is on democratization as a means of promoting structural adjustment programs, in line with the recent strategies of Western aid providers

– There is widespread support for democracy in these countries as well as fairly widespread satisfaction with it

– There is a hybrid nature to African regimes with respect to both the state (between authoritarianism and democracy) and the market (between command-based and liberalized)

– This extends to the context of African public opinion studies (which until recently were relatively scant and tended to be driven by the interests of external donors)

 

 

Approach:

– Examines attitudes for reform both comparatively across nations and using the aggregate Afrobarometer data, arguing that the Africans in their sample feel caught between the shrinking state and the expanding market

– Authors compare five competing explanations for public opinion on political and market reform, including social structure, cultural values, cognitive awareness, citizens’ performance, evaluations of states and markets, and institutional influences

– Examines competing explanations for these attitudes, including structural, cultural, and institutional factors as well as public awareness

– Rather than arguing that the state offers the basic foundation which makes liberalized markets possible, they take the more cynical view that state provision encourages dependency rather than self-motivation

 

Findings:

– While cognitive factors might be the basis of attitudes about democracy, the actual decision to participate in politics is shaped more by social and institutional factors

– Authors find little support for structural adjustment policies alongside widespread support for democracy

– With respect to market reforms, respondents generally oppose the restructuring of economic institutions but support some elements of reform packages, especially if privatization were to result in higher-quality services

– Relying heavily on the amount of variance explained by each model, the authors conclude that the patterns of public opinion they find are almost entirely explained by performance evaluations and cognitive engagement in public affairs

– State that society and culture explains things only at the margins; they aren’t the heart of public opinion

– Outcome: The authors advocate that the hardships imposed by structural adjustment are merely temporary

 

Critique: Bratton, Mattes, and Gyimah- Boadi make plain their methodological strategy of deriving regime conditions from their reflection in public opinion, rather than through an examination of actual institution-al conditions. This would be less problematic if the authors did not make such strong claims about the relative incapacity of institutions to shape public opinion.

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