Key Democracy Indicators in Decline in Western Europe



Democracy Beyond Parties
Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of California


In one of the few comparative empirical studies of liberal democracy in recent times, Peter Mair’s 2005 study found that key indicators of the performance of liberal democracy had fallen significantly across liberal democracies in Western Europe over the past 15 years.

The study found that most if not all these democracies were marked by increasing electoral volatility, significant declines in voter participation in elections as well as political party membership.

Mair found these trends began after 1990 – a time when Western-style democracy was supposed to be in the ascendency in Europe following the collapse of communism.

Mair blames failings with political parties and their growing inability to connect with citizens for these trends.

He warns if patterns of voter disconnect continue as result of the decline in major parties' performance, democracy will become a system ‘without a demos’.


Thumbnail image: Gavin Baker/Flickr.

Peter Mair

Leiden University

Published Date
June 1, 2005