An Experimental Literature Review on Democratic Erosion

In addition to the Democratic Erosion Event Dataset, the Bush School of Government & Public Service Capstone Team also produced a comprehensive review of existing experimental evidence related to democratic erosion. The utility of experimental evidence for policymakers is two-fold. First, experimental designs are a rigorous way of establishing causation, or determining whether some intervention or treatment has a causal effect on an outcome of interest. Because the stakes are often high in the decisions of policymakers, rigorous evidence of what works and what does not is optimal. Second, similar to experimental designs, policymakers often seek to change the status quo by implementing an intervention or program. Thus, intervention methods tested in experimental literature may pave the ways for actual programs that policymakers could implement.

The Capstone Team’s comprehensive search of the literature ultimately yielded 339 articles grouped into 11 distinct categories: Prejudice, Polarization, Education and Norms, Information, Party and Civic Association Strengthening, Electoral Rules, Courts, Inequality and Democratic Breakdown, Political Competition, Economic Shocks, and State Capacity. The number of studies in each topic area is summarized in the figure below:

The report is organized by topic. Each section provides 1) a table that maps the literature falling under that topic heading, and 2) a narrative summary of the conclusions from said literature and resulting policy recommendations. This was done so that each topical section could be a stand-alone product in case users were only interested in a subset of themes.

To learn more, please download the full report here.