Democratizing the measurement of democratic quality: public attitude data and the evaluation of African political regimes

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University of Cape Town

The emerging literature on the "quality of democracy" promises to advance our knowledge of democratization in several ways. First of all, it takes us beyond the narrow assessment of stability and endurance of democratic political regimes to ask about the quality of democracy those regimes supply. We move from asking "how stable?" to "how well?" Second, the concept of quality promises to provide us with greater nuance and precision, and thus greater ability to distinguish amongst widely disparate countries -- such as Cape Verde and Ghana on one hand, and Canada and Greece on the other -- that are usually lumped together as free, or as liberal democracies by the relatively blunt measures provided by Freedom House or Polity. Finally, and related to this, it enables us to move beyond "whole system" (Diamond 2002) measures and brings into focus differing dimensions of democracy, allowing us to appreciate that some countries can do better on some dimensions but worse on others. This also opens up the possibility that we may be able to measure democratic qualities in countries that do not qualify as electoral or liberal democracies (Elkins 2000).