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Popular Definitions of Democracy from Uganda, Madagascar, and Florida, U.S.A.

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This paper compares three studies of popular definitions of democracy. The goal of the paper is to explore the universality of democratic notions and norms. We accomplish this goal by disaggregating definitions of democracy, and reporting the results of empirical studies that asked Ugandan and Malagasy citizens to define democracy. We then compare these results to a parallel study that asked Americans living in Florida to define democracy. The principal finding is that despite methodological differences the response trend was the same for all three studies. The majority of people defined democracy in terms of "freedom," and generally specific individual freedoms, as opposed to elections, political participation, elements of good governance, economic development, or other common factors. Based on this finding we assert that normative implications of liberalism in popular definitions of democracy can inform both theoretical and policy oriented analyses of democracy in Africa.

Affiliations: 1: Correspondence should be directed to Dr. Dan Ottemoeller, 2 College Ave, Frederick, MD 21701, USA.


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