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SPP 217

Author: William Mishler, U. of South Carolina and Richard Rose, CSPP
Description: Even where they have little policymaking influence, legislatures are believed to have important latent or symbolic functions for the creation and maintenance of support for democratic regimes. These functions are taken for granted in established democracies but are both critical and problematic in democratizing regimes. Survey data from six Eastern European countries are used to examine the nature, extent and interrelationship of public support for newly democratic legislatures and regimes. In all the countries examined, support for the legislatures is remarkably widespread; it is especially high among attentive publics potential opinion leaders. Legislative support varies with perceptions of economic performance, but the extent of support even among those most dissatisfied with the economy suggests that support is substantially symbolic or diffuse in nature. Although the relationship between legislative and regime support is reciprocal, support for legislatures is more a consequence than a cause of support for the regime. For new democracies, at least, the real value of legislatures may be less anything they do than in what they are. By providing opportunities for citizen participation in elections, legislatures are important symbols of democracy.

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CSPP School of Government & Public Policy U. of Strathclyde Glasgow G1 1XQ Scotland