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Crime and Public Support for the Rule of Law in Latin America and Africa

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AbstractCrime poses a formidable obstacle to democratization in many parts of the developing world. New democracies in Central America and sub-Saharan Africa face some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Politicians, citizens, and policy-makers have raised the alarm about the growing tide of criminality. Public insecurity, coupled with inefficient and often corrupt justice systems, makes democratization uncertain. Even if new democracies do not revert to dictatorship, the quality of democracy may suffer if crime continues to rise. One particularly vulnerable component of democracy is the rule of law, as public insecurity may fuel support for extra-legal justice, and a willingness to disregard the law while aggressively pursuing suspected criminals. To test these relationships, we assess the ways in which criminal victimization, as well as fear of crime, affect citizen support for the rule of law. We utilize public opinion data collected in select countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa through two widely used sources – the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) and the Afrobarometer surveys.


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