The Meanings of Democracy in Venezuela: Citizen Perceptions and Structural Change

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Throughout Latin America, democratic political structures reflect liberal conceptualizations of democracy. Since the election of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela has emerged as an exception, with President Chávez sponsoring initiatives designed to foster participatory democracy. This article draws on the Venezuelan case in an effort to gain insight on the malleability of citizens' definitions of and attitudes toward democracy. Two key findings emerge. First, in data gathered ten years into the Chávez presidency, the vast majority of Venezuelans still define democracy in liberal terms, whereas relatively few have embraced participatory conceptualizations. Second, although Venezuelans as a whole are highly supportive of democracy as a form of government, no evidence is found that either support for Chávez or defining democracy in terms of participation corresponds with higher favorability toward democracy. Together, these findings suggest that Venezuela's political transformation has produced little or no discernible effect on mass sentiment regarding democracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-122
Number of pages28
JournalLatin American Politics and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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