African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 381

Full Length Research Paper

Satisfaction with democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa: Assessing the effects of system performance

Michael Guldbrandtsen and Svend-Erik Skaaning*
Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, Denmark.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 17 March 2010
  •  Published: 31 May 2010


This paper examines the relationship between system performance and satisfaction with democracy in sub-Saharan African countries. On the basis of comparable survey data from the third round of Afrobarometer from 2005, we have assessed a number of economic and political performance indicators. In doing this, we employ an elaborate theoretical framework and multilevel analysis. The results show that system performance is indeed related to levels of satisfaction with democracy. Both micro-level and macro-level, economic and political variables are important in relation to the differences in the African citizens’ satisfaction with democracy. More particularly, the macro-level variables economic growth and respect for the rule of law are positively associated with satisfaction with democracy. On the micro-level, the citizens’ positive evaluations of their own as well as the national economic situation increases satisfaction, while unequal treatment under the law and, first and foremost, poor election quality show negative effects. Thus, even under economic hardship, satisfaction with democracy may persist if the citizens think that fundamental democratic principles are respected. On the other hand, dissatisfaction is likely to take root if the citizens think that those principles are not respected.  


Key words: Afrobarometer, satisfaction with democracy, system performance, multilevel analysis.