In order to diagnose Europe’s democratic vulnerabilities, we conducted experiments that probe Europeans’ ability to recognize and punish politicians who undermine democracy. Across seven countries, we systematically detect two reservoirs of tolerance for authoritarianism: the illiberal right and the disengaged. Citizens in the first group support parties on the extreme, populist, radical, or nationalist right. Citizens in the second group do not vote, but, in several countries, they are dormant supporters of the illiberal right and exhibit just as much lenience toward transgressions against democracy. The root cause of the illiberal right’s tolerance for authoritarianism appears to be not in how much it cares about its signature issues, like immigration or traditional values, but in how little it cares about democracy. Europe’s authoritarian potential, both overt and hidden, is located on its electorates’ far-right flanks.
Read the full article in the new issue of the Journal of Democracy - it's open access until the 15th of February.