Eroding support for democracy in Azerbaijan? Context and pitfalls in survey research

In: Caucasus Survey
Turkhan Sadigov Independent Scholar

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Farid Guliyev Independent Scholar

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What determines the level of support for democracy in post-Soviet hybrid regimes? How stable is popular support for democracy, and what can explain its volatility? This article explores these questions using evidence from the European Bank of Research and Development's Life in Transition survey in Azerbaijan, where from 2010 to 2016 support for democracy suddenly fell from 60% to 28% – the lowest score in the transition region. We juxtapose social background factors with economic and political variables, and use regression analysis and contextual data. Our main argument is that citizens’ support for democracy in Azerbaijan is highly volatile and could be sensitive to major changes in sociopolitical conditions, notably, retaliation against dissent (from mid- 2012 on) and economic recession set in by the oil price downfall (2015). The instability of democracy support presents specific challenges in measuring political attitudes in hybrid regime contexts. Finally, reliability of survey data on regime-related attitudes obtained by public polling in societies with limited freedoms may be compromised due to survey design and execution issues. Fear and self-censorship prevalent among respondents also need to be addressed.

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