Many studies show that past and current economic conditions are strong determinants of citizens’ attitudes toward government and political institutions. In this article, we develop a forward-looking theory and argue that economic expectations also drive the level of satisfaction with democracy. Crucially, we contend that this relationship is conditional: hope for a better tomorrow matters more to the poor and to those who live in less affluent countries. We use survey data from 34 countries to study the conditional relationship between economic expectations and satisfaction with democracy and find that the allure of the “American Dream” can be more or less potent, depending on one’s place on the socioeconomic ladder. These findings contribute to our understanding of a fundamental aspect of political life: support for democracy may rest on a coalition between the wealthy and those who expect to become wealthy.
- satisfaction with democracy
- material well-being
- positive illusions
- diminishing returns
- long-term economic perceptions