# Support for Democracy Is Multidimensional: Why Unidimensional Latent Variable Measures of Democratic Support Are Invalid

attitudes
democracy
measurement
dcpo
Authors
Affiliations

Tsinghua University

Pennsylvania State University

University of Iowa

Pohang University of Science and Technology

University of Iowa

Published

February 16, 2023

• Hu, Yue, Yuehong Cassandra Tai, Hyein Ko, Byung-Deuk Woo, and Frederick Solt. 2023. “Support for Democracy Is Multidimensional: Why Unidimensional Latent Variable Measures of Democratic Support Are Invalid.” SocArXiv.

• ## Abstract

Measuring democratic support as a single latent variable requires assuming that it falls along a single dimension from steadfast opposition to wholehearted support. This ignores ample evidence that support for democracy is complex and multidimensional. Here we provide a series of validation tests of the sort of cross-national time-series latent variable measures employed in recent research by reference to questions on support for liberal democracy and opposition to its erosion from multiwave surveys conducted around the world. These tests show that, across countries and years, this latent variable is nearly orthogonal to measures of support for contestation and participation; civil liberties; institutional constraints on executive power; and prioritizing democracy over the economy, economic equality, or order. We conclude that support for democracy in any robust sense is simply not well captured by a unidimensional latent variable. Such measures are powerful but researchers must be mindful of their limitations.

## BibTeX citation

@misc{HuTaiSolt2022,
author={Hu, Yue and Tai, Yuehong Cassandra and Ko, Hyein and Woo, Byung-Deuk and Solt, Frederick},
title={Support for Democracy Is Multidimensional: Why Unidimensional Latent Variable Measures of Democratic Support Are Invalid},
publisher={SocArXiv},
year={2023},
month={February},
url={osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/rym8g/},
doi={10.31235/osf.io/rym8g/}
}