AbstractHow do authoritarian elections affect voters’ attitudes toward the regime and their support for democracy? This article draws upon the case of village elections in China to argue that elections may have two simultaneous effects. First, free and fair elections increase citizens’ confidence in the government. Second, elections also allow voters to exercise political rights and accumulate democratic experience through participation, and this in turn may trigger greater demand for further empowerment. Empirical analysis of data from a two-round nationwide survey conducted in 114 villages confirms both effects. One implication of these findings is that competitive elections may simultaneously boost regime popularity and increase public demand for further democratic reform.
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