Authoritarian or Simply Disillusioned? Explaining Democratic Skepticism in Central and Eastern Europe



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Survey research has revealed that post-communist citizens are skeptical towards democracy. Despite a substantial body of literature that has researched the origins and determinants of these attitudes, consensus has not yet emerged. A major challenge has been to distinguish between individual support for democracy as an ideal political regime and satisfaction with the way democracy is practiced in one’s country. Using structural equation modeling with latent variables, we improve measurement validity and account for feedback efects to better understand the relationship between these attitudes. Consistent with our performance-based theory, we fnd that positive assessments of political performance drive normative support for democracy. The impact of satisfaction with democracy on democratic support suggests that we should not rush to view post-communist citizens’ mindset as anomalous and inherently anti-democratic. Rather, post-communist skepticism of democracy might be generalized to contexts characterized by fawed implementation and unmet expectations of this form of government.


Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit


Democratic support, Democratic satisfaction, Eastern Europe, Structural equation modeling, Post-communism


Auerbach, K., Petrova, B. Authoritarian or Simply Disillusioned? Explaining Democratic Skepticism in Central and Eastern Europe. Polit Behav 44, 1959–1983 (2022).