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.
Reuters

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.

READ MORE: 
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 ...
REUTERS

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

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Victory parade - but which day?

Emirates Team New Zealand helmed by Peter Burling celebrate after winning the America's Cup.

Exact day for homecoming parade for Team NZ is still being worked out, but Thursday next week looks a good bet.

Police hunting escaped prisoner

Police are hunting for Lusitino Selesele an inmate who was granted leave to attend a funeral, and his partner, Jacinta Sale.

Police are hunting a prisoner who escaped while attending a funeral.

Boy refuses to get in car

The boy was walking home from Vauxhall School, in Narrow Neck on Auckland's North Shore.

A boy refuses to get into the car of stranger claiming to be sent by the his father.

Ex-Breaker 'pulled beard'

Corey Webster is on trial at the North Shore District Court.

Former Breakers star Corey Webster is facing charges over a fracas in an Auckland bar.

Wellington

A Wellington thriller video

Wing Tommy Seymour dives over for the first of the British and Irish Lions' tries against the Hurricanes.

Draws rarely come more exciting than this one between the Hurricanes and Lions.

Police probe death

James Whenauroa died in hospital after suffering critical head injuries.

James Whenauroa was found with critical head injuries at notorious Wellington apartment block. A week later, he died in hospital.

Coles takes the field at last

Hurricane Dane Coles and Lions skipper Sam Warburton hongi after the treasured korowai is presented at Wellington Stadium.

But it was just a ceremonial role, as he presented Lions captain with a korowai.

Capital wants cup victory parade

From left, Team NZ chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge, chief executive Grant Dalton, helmsman Peter Burling, team ...

And it also wants to be part of the action in the next America's Cup.

Canterbury

Fight with ex-wife continues

Earl Hagaman died on May 25 at the age of 92.

Earl Hagaman's will instructs trustees to fight any claim by his ex-wife "to the fullest extent".

Secret tyre mountain

A tyre mountain on a suburban Christchurch property is being slowly dismantled after complaints and environmental concerns.

In a green pocket of Christchurch hides a tyre pile so vast it can be seen via satellite.

Boy's battle after fatal crash

Leeston crash victims Sam Drost, Lily Moore and Cole Christensen-Hull, all aged 15.

He thought his son was in bed. Instead he was in hospital with a 50 per cent chance of survival and three of his friends were dead.

Fill trolley, walk out

A woman put a lawn mower, curtains and curtain rails in a trolley and walked out the door without paying for them. (File ...

A shoplifter's brazen approach almost worked, until she tried it again.

Waikato

Dairy axe attack fight back video

Hamilton police are asking for help to identify two offenders who entered a superette armed with tomahawks.

Footage shows owners attack and scare off masked intruders with bottle of soy sauce.

Human chain protest

Mick Elley, a pianist from Te Aroha came down to support the cause.

Protesters say Waikato Uni's Conservatorium of Music is a 'national jewel' damaged by imminent staff cuts.

Baby died while mum bought pizza

The case is being heard in the High Court at Tauranga.

The 14-week-old had head injuries when his mum came back from buying dinner.

Toss the carpark vistas Hamilton

Ludo Campbell-Reid says NZ cities are designed for rush hour traffic, not people.

Forget the ugly carparks and Maccas, focus on the river and mountains, designer tells city.

Taranaki

Surprises pulled from the water

Robert Hinton was on his morning walk as lake levels dropped in Pukekura Park.

If Pukekura Park does have a Lady of the Lake, she won't be happy...

Assault defence opens

A trial involving three men is likely  to extend into next week at the New Plymouth District Court (FILE PHOTO).

 Violence accused claims complainant was "sweet as" with deal to hand over property to settle drug debt.

When your computer talks back

Gene Gibson has recently qualified as the country's expert on NVDA, a voice programme for blind people to use computers.

Talking computers aren't just a thing of sci-fi for Gene Gibson.

An early brush with yachting royalty

A 16-year-old Peter Burling off the water at Port Taranaki in 2007.

OPINION: An interview with a young Peter Burling, on the cusp of yachting greatness.

Manawatu

Manawatu muscle behind cup win

Olympic medalist cyclist Simon van Velthooven was to the fore as Team New Zealand chose pedal power instead of ...

Simon van Velthooven is exhausted and excited after the long, successful America's Cup campaign.

Gorge costs mount

Workers clear one of the slips that have kept the Manawatu Gorge closed since late April.

More slips plague the Manawatu Gorge hillside, as cleanup costs surge towards $1 million.

Son claims share of dad's fortune

Paul Van Moeseke made a will about six weeks before he died (File photo)

An eminent economist had wanted to leave his millions to animal rights groups.

Self-defence claims

Joseph Kurene.

Man suffered fractured skull and was in hospital for a month.

Nelson

King Salmon predicts $20m profit

JOHN ANTHONY/FAIRFAX NZ New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne celebrates following the company's debut ...

Less than a year after listing on the stock exchange, NZ King Salmon is raking in the profits.

Blazing a trail

Munro Hotel Group general manager Garry Munro outside Trailways in Trafalgar St.

Trailways Hotel has been recognised as one of the best sustainable tourism businesses in New Zealand.

Fistfight sparks gun threat 'bravado'

Victor Baskiville-Braithwaite pulled an air rifle on a group of people at Anzac Park after getting in a fight.

A man who pulled out an air rifle after being punched in the face has appeared in court.

Sold on property

Nelson Auctioneer John Walker.

Vanessa Phillips meets some top of the south businessmen with a passion for property.

Marlborough

'We are the champions'

"The pride of Picton", Joseph Sullivan, heads to the boat at this year's America's Cup.

Joseph Sullivan's parents have Queen karaoke classic ready for when he calls.

Time to repay kindness

Always on hand to help others, from left, Dontae, Gina and Maddie Anderson are well known in Blenheim for their charity ...

Gina Anderson is first to help those in need but her family is facing a serious set back of their own.

No stops for sick cow

Farmer Alan McConachie was stopped by police on State Highway 63 in Wairau Valley, Marlborough. (File photo)

A farmer who drove more than seven hours without a break says one of his cows looked sick.

Fill trolley, walk out

A woman put a lawn mower, curtains and curtain rails in a trolley and walked out the door without paying for them. (File ...

Shoplifter's brazen approach almost worked, until she tried it again.

South Canterbury

Tears, relief on Grasmere St video

Grasmere St resident Don Boot gives one of the remaining condemned pin oaks a final hug before it is cut down on Tuesday.

Some residents watched in horror as condemned pin oaks were cut down on Grasmere St.

Sugar policy difficult

A national policy on sugary drinks in council workplaces would be difficult to regulate and pose problems when ...

Councillors unimpressed by proposed national sweet drinks policy.

Gearing up for Jump Jam

Timaru South School Jump Jam Extravaganza team The South Stars at Tuesday's dress rehearsal.
Back row, from left, Zoe ...

More than 500 South Canterbury pupils are preparing to show off their moves on the big stage.

Police morale high

Senior Sergeant Dylan Murray, of Timaru, said police were often involved in community organisations and were genuinely ...

Despite reports of stress, Senior Sergeant says police culture in SC is "excellent".

Southland

Police re-open Barclay probe

Clutha Southland MP Todd Barclay - back under police investigation.

Police have reopened their investigation into allegations embattled National MP Todd Barclay illegally recorded his electorate staff. 

House's future divides

Some councillors have said they want the Anderson House to be returned to its old use, as a home for the Invercargill ...

"I don't think that we should play with money."

Two murder accused named

The cordon at Stadium Southland following the alleged incident on June 7.

Man, woman, both 18, named among seven charged with murder after alleged incident at Stadium Southland.

Singer crowd funding album

Arrowtown singer-songwriter Holly Arrowsmith is crowd funding her latest album.

TUI Award-winning queen of folk Holly Arrowsmith turns to crowdfunding for her second album due out later this year.

Ad Feedback