Young westerners across the world losing faith in democracy - even in New Zealand

The conflict in the United States might feel far away, but democracy is feeling the strain in New Zealand too.

The conflict in the United States might feel far away, but democracy is feeling the strain in New Zealand too.

Through a year rife with totalitarian-tinged populism and voter rebellion the world over, New Zealand has seemed relatively stable.

The legitimacy of our democratic institutions is rarely challenged. We don't seem set to vote in a Trump-like figure, or dramatically restructure our country with a Brexit-like vote. We don't even want a new flag.

But new research reveals our faith in democracy is faltering in a similar pattern to one seen overseas. 

The unreleased Journal of Democracy study shows that 29.3 percent of Kiwis born in the 1980s say it is "essential" to live in a democracy.

Guy Williams: Seeing shades of Trump in New Zealand
Trump touts Muslim ban and border wall in TV ads 
* John Key: 'The US isn't an island'

This is a dramatic drop off from those in older cohorts - almost half of those born in the 1970s believe it is essential, while almost two thirds of those born in the 1930s say as much. 

Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Russians are much more likely than Kiwis to say they prefer a strong leader to ...

Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Russians are much more likely than Kiwis to say they prefer a strong leader to parliamentary democracy.

The data is based on the World Values Survey and was collected between 2010 and 2014

It roughly matches the trend in other longstanding liberal democracies, with Americans, Brits, and Australians born in the 1980s at a similar number.

Just over one in five Kiwis said they would prefer to have the country led by a strong leader rather than parliament and elections. This is a slight rise from the 1990s but is one of the lower numbers seen around the world - with about three quarters of Russians and close to one third of Americans saying the same.

Co-author Roberto Stefan Foa told Stuff that while New Zealand's institutions were performing much better than some other longstanding democracies, the trends were pointing downward.

Ad Feedback

"The warning signs are not flashing as strongly as they are in the United Kingdom or the USA, but the situation is not as good as it once was," Foa said.

"You can see that particularly in that intergenerational cohort trend - that faith in democracy is not as strong as it once was."

Foa emphasised that the research showed cracks in the liberal democratic consensus - not a collapse. 

"It's a movement from an 'end of history' where liberal democracy was the only option to a situation where it is one option."

"Right now New Zealand, Australia, even the United States are at points of very high democratic consolidation. There is a long way to fall before democratic institutions begin to lose shape - the point is that we are moving backwards."

​Credit: Yascha Mounk and Roberto Stefan Foa, "The Signs of Democratic Deconsolidation," Journal of Democracy

While we were somewhat isolated from the more dramatic movements, the same trends that were playing out overseas were happening here too - particularly an increasingly isolated political class and higher rates of inequality.

Foa said seemingly small movements could mean a lot - you didn't need half of the country to reject democracy for the system to flounder.

"If we look at the data from Iran, Venezuela, Russia - a lot of people there will still be saying democracy is important. It will just be slightly lower than in western democracies.

"In Venezuela in the 1990s, before they elected [Hugo] Chevez, the upper limit of people saying that democracy was a bad way to run the country was at about 30 percent. If you get to a point where over half of the sample is saying democracy is bad, you probably won't be able to conduct this kind of survey any more."

 - Stuff


Ad Feedback
special offers

Masterclass in 'celebrating' fallen teacher's life

It's believed swimmer Leslie Gelberger was run-over by a boat in Auckland harbour.

Emotional scenes as family and friends say goodbye to Leslie Gelberger at the high school he taught at.

Advantage Auckland City in final

Joao Moreira celebrates his second goal.

Auckland City will take a 3-0 advantage over Team Wellington into the second leg of the OFC Champions League final.

How about an underwater stadium?

An artist's impression of a possible underground stadium in Auckland.

A designer says another crater would fit right in on Auckland's waterfront.

Security guard drops burglar

"Stealing from hospice is pretty low," says Insite Security's Chris Martin.

A rugby league-loving security guard made the perfect tackle to bring down a burglar armed with a crowbar.


Keeping our trains on track video

Security guards now monitor Wellington's rail network 24/7 through live CCTV camera footage.

Making sure the Wellington region's trains are where they need to be is now a 24/7 job.

Big bill from toxic sites

Contaminated Te Mome Stream - or Dead Man's Arm to locals - has priority status for a clean-up.

Taxpayers to foot the bill for more than 60 toxic sites across NZ that still require funding.

Back to school for Andrew Little

Labour Party leader Andrew Little will be stepping out from the comfort of Parliament to do admin at Island Bay School.

Labour Leader to take on his wife's job and run the admin office at a Wellington school.

Wine ... and eggs?

Winemaker Tony Bish imported an oak egg from France which will be used to make chardonnay.

An unlikely combination of wine and eggs is taking wine innovation to another level.


Thieves target high-end shops

Staff at The Collective at The Colombo are sick of thieves targeting their store.

Chch's The Collective hit three times in a week, with one thief taking jacket off a mannequin.

Car plunge mystery

Police say they received a call at 4.50pm about a car entering the Buller River.

A dog escaped, but the driver is yet to be found after car crashed into the Buller River.

Snow to hit Port Hills?

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel battles an umbrella in the wind on Sunday.

Worst of the chilly gales and rain will hit about 6pm - and snow could settle on the hills.

Coming in to land ... on SH1

Air Kaikoura Aero Club, pictured with its training plane near Mt Fyffe, supplied a service between Kaikoura and Clarence.

Cars cannot drive on it, so the Kaikoura aero club wants to use it for planes.


Architectural wonders revealed

The new law and management building at Waikato University was designed by Opus Architecture.

A lot of well known Waikato and Bay of Plenty buildings - and spaces - have earned accolades.

It's our turn to fix this

A medical school backed by Waikato Hospital, pictured, and Waikato University  seeks to train GPs to fill a critical ...

OPINION: The old boys have failed to fix New Zealand's doctor shortage, now it's our turn.

Join the fight for our med school

Waikato University vice-chancellor Professor Neil Quigley and Waikato District Health Board chief executive Dr Nigel Murray.

A proposed medical school in the Waikato has the Government interested.

Ref raids accounts

050711 NEWS. Robert Charles/Taranaki Daily News. Cheque/ cheque book. Money. Bank.

Colleagues blew the whistle on referee who swiped $13K and a video camera.


Campbell Lane opens

South Taranaki District mayor Ross Dunlop officiated at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

New development in Hawera gets the thumbs-up from residents.

Crowds at health expo

There was a vast array of products and services available.

Health and wellness expo in New Plymouth boomed.

Faith in the future

Taranaki Cathedral of St Mary's, Bishop Philip Richardson, centre, blesses Dean of St Mary's Very Reverend Peter Beck as ...

New Zealand's oldest church is being strengthened and it's about more than bricks and mortar.

Mail delays irk posties

Postal Workers Union's Southern District president John Maynard said they want New Zealand Post investigated for serious ...

Reaction to a story on 'snail mail' was not new news to posties.


A look inside the stricken gorge video

The two slips are around two kilometres apart and it will take weeks for the road through the gorge to reopen.

The road through the Manawatu Gorge will be closed for weeks - and here's why.

Cyber act in action

The Harmful Digitial Communications Act was passed in July 2015.

Act helps as more than 20 people prosecuted for posting harmful content online.

Ram-raid attempt to steal cigarettes

The Feilding BP on Kimbolton Rd was ram-raided.

A stolen ute was used to ram into a BP station in an attempt to steal cigarettes

NZDF civilians take strike action

Civilian employees of NZDF are on strike about pay.

Union accuses the Defence Force of intimidation after strike action.


Not a house, it's a croquet shelter

Athol Turner has a few home comforts at the Hinemoa Croquet Club shelter, including coffee and a biography of Alec Guiness.

As the Nelson City Council looks to implement a new law banning sleeping in the city we meet a man who has made a croquet club his home.

Housing crisis help?

David Barnes, right, with his son Samuel Barnes who needs medical care, pictured with the dwelling David built for him ...

A Nelson man built a home on his property for his mentally-ill son. Could this solve our housing issues?

Guilty of murder

Philip Quayle died after being attacked on a street in Cairns, Australia, about 100 metres from home.

A man who choked a Nelson man to death during a random street attack in Cairns has been found guilty of murder.

Taking a leaf out of the future video

Nelson Mail Journalist Tim O'Connell with the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle(EV) that the Nelson Mail has had on loan from ...

Tim O'Connell shares the thrills, trials and tribulations of driving an electric vehicle.


Meat pies and babies

Blenheim-raised comedian Tony Lyall is performing his new show Happy Hour at the NZ International Comedy Festival next week.

 Blenheim-raised comedian Tony Lyall's new show is about the things, big and small, that put a smile on people's faces.

Sound of the future

The junior Blenheim Brass Band excelled at the New Zealand National Brass Band Championships in Wellington. They used a ...

Young brass band members may one day sport colourful, plastic instruments.

Jetset health staff costing millions

District health boards across the country are grappling with a specialist shortage.

Spending on overseas medical staff is in the millions, as a union warns NZ increasingly reliant on international workers.

Hockey trio off to tackle Aussies

Andrew Nation will represent the New Zealand 35-40 years side in Whangarei.

Three hockey players will represent their country at the 2017 Trans-Tasman Masters Challenge.

South Canterbury

Parents remember 'talented' son

Rowan Yeager died following a crash near Lake Ohau on Anzac Day. This photo, supplied by friend Andrew Weatherall, shows ...

Man killed in crash near Lake Ohau was just a week off moving into house he built by hand.

Cleverley 'exonerated'

Former South Canterbury District Health Board chair Murray Cleverley has spoken out for the first time about his ...

Former SCDHB chair Murray Cleverley says decision to resign as chair was tough.

Late-night quad bike death

The man crashed a quad bike just before midnight on Friday night.

A man was killed in a crash on a South Canterbury highway just before midnight.

'We have got a lot of work to do'

SCDHB chief executive Nigel Trainor says the DHB is going try and improve low rates of HPV vaccination by providing more ...

SC has a 'poor' HPV vaccination rate, prompting the DHB to turn to social media.


Volunteer firefighters getting medical training

Edendale Firefighters Brendon Cameron, Shane Elliott, Richard Hart, Scottie Cameron, Brian Coyle, Rudi Verplancke and ...

Some Southland volunteer fire brigades are taking on extra medical training to provide a service to fill a need within their community.

Visitor tax unlikely

Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Clutha Southland MP Todd Barclay in Queenstown.

Finance Minister says more money does need to be spent on tourism infrastructure.

Pros and cons of reform

Southland Regional Development Strategy governance group chair Tom Campbell.

Experts say the effect of the changes to immigration reform are uncertain at this stage, with both positives and negatives to come out of the new policy.

Walking for enjoyment

Recreational walking gives June Wilson, left, and Ngaire Evans immense pleasure.

Joining walking groups is good for exercise and making friends, June Wilson says.

Ad Feedback