How critical are Germans of democracy? The pattern and origins of constitutional support in Germany

Ross Campbell*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Academic studies have consistently demonstrated that citizens have lost trust in democratic institutions, grown sceptical of elected leaders, and become dissatisfied with how democracy works. These studies, however, neglect the analysis of some of the most important objects of the democracies they analyse. A case in point is the German constitution (Basic Law), which prescribes the values of German democracy and the institutions through which they are realized. By analysing 28 years of individual-level data from the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS), this article makes two important discoveries about attitudes towards the constitution. First, support for it is widespread, enduring and increasing amongst citizens in the east and west of the country. Second, generalized linear models demonstrate that this form of support is grounded in phenomena which provide it with durability. Postmaterialist values, centrist ideology, and age all nurture attachments to the constitution. These effects are confirmed by post-estimation analyses of average marginal effects. By demonstrating that German democracy is underpinned by a fund of enduring support, the research challenges suggestions of a crisis of democracy and concludes that Germans are not cynically rejecting of democracy, but critically democratic: they desire a fuller expression of the constitutional ideals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-133
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe
Issue number2-3
Early online date14 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Oct 2020


  • democratic deficit
  • Germany
  • ideology
  • political learning
  • political support
  • postmaterialism


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