Democratic Norms: Erosion or Change? 


It has long been known that democracies rely on written laws and constitutions. A democracy can’t survive without a democratic constitution. But democracies rely not just onwritten constitutions alone but also upon unwritten rules --or democratic norms. Norms matter at the level of politicians and how they interact with each other and at the level of every-day politics of citizens. Two of the most significant norms for the functioning of democracy have been the norm of mutual toleration (“gegenseitige Achtung”) and forbearance (“Zurückhaltung”). Politicians, if they follow the written law, can still assault democracy by violating democratic norms. And, many citizens feel that the unwritten rules that have served as democracy’s guardrails have begun to erode. In this research pillar, we investigate which norms matter and how political norms change. We draw on social psychological literature on taboos to study why and how politicians began to violate norms. Using survey experiments to try uncover unspoken norms and we try expose the strength of democratic norms in contemporary democracy, tracing how much norm erosion is happening in our democracies.


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German Political Identity
Researchers: Prof. Daniel Ziblatt, Ph.D.

Cooperation partners:
Elias Dinas, Ph.D., EUI
Vasiliki Fouka, Ph.D., Stanford University