Democratization and Political Tolerance in Seventeen Countries: A Multi-level Model of Democratic Learning

Mark Peffley, Robert Rohrschneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Scopus citations


Research on mass support for democracies shows that popular support for democratic norms is at an historic high. At the same time, research on political tolerance draws considerably bleaker conclusions about the democratic capacity of mass publics. We attempt to synthesize the essential lessons of these two literatures into a general model of democratic learning which argues that exposure to the rough-and-tumble of democratic politics should enhance political tolerance. We provide a test of the model using multilevel data from a diverse set of 17 countries. At the macro-level, we find, consistent with our theory, that: (1) political tolerance is greater in stable democracies that have endured over time (the longer the better), independent of a nation's socioeconomic development; and (2) that federal systems increase levels of tolerance, as well. At the micro-level, we find that democratic activism, or using civil liberties, enhances political tolerance, independent of a host of other individual-level predictors. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our findings for studies of democratization and political tolerance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-257
Number of pages15
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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