How Do We Think About Our Democracy?

Loss of trust, polarization, and an increasingly aggressive tone in public discourse: The vast majority of people are concerned about the state of democracy. Together with More in Common, we wanted to find out more about the reasons for this. We asked citizens of Germany, France, the UK, Poland, and the USA how they think about democracy.

Robert Bosch Stiftung | June 2021

The study explained in brief

Melanie Dense of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and Laura-Kristine Krause of More in Common Germany present the central findings of the study. Please turn on the English subtitles.

People in Western countries have high expectations for democracy: Many people only consider it to be a good thing if it also produces good results for the citizens of the country. At the same time, a significant portion of the people in Germany, France, the UK, Poland, and the USA have no strong relationship to their democracy – even if the vast majority fundamentally say “yes” to this form of government. They don’t feel a direct connection between their lives and the democratic state. This leads in part to contented indifference, but also to feelings ranging from disorientation to sympathy for authoritarian alternatives.

Many people believe that their voices don’t make a difference

For the study “It’s Complicated: People and Their Democracy in Germany, France, Britain, Poland, and the United States,” the organization More in Common travelled around the world and interviewed approximately 10,000 people in five countries about their understanding of democracy. What expectations do people have of democracy? What do they want from it, and what challenges do they face when it comes to democracy? On the basis of their responses, the study illustrates the current societal dynamics around the subject of democracy. In addition, it identifies starting points for politics and civil society through which the relationship of trust between them and their citizens can be strengthened. 

“The results of the study don’t allow us to say ‘keep it up,’” says Sandra Breka, CEO of the Robert Bosch Stiftung. “The ambivalence and indifference of many citizens of Western democracies, combined with their disappointment, needs to be taken seriously and addressed. Many people feel that their concerns are not being heard and that their voices don’t make any difference. This result should prompt us to think and move us to take action.”