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Aspects of Democratic Performance:


Democratic Adherence and Regime
Evaluation in Brazil, 2002
Rachel Meneguello
Published online: 23 Nov 2006.

To cite this article: Rachel Meneguello (2006) Aspects of Democratic Performance: Democratic
Adherence and Regime Evaluation in Brazil, 2002, International Review of Sociology: Revue
Internationale de Sociologie, 16:3, 617-635, DOI: 10.1080/03906700600931426

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International Review of Sociology *Revue Internationale de Sociologie
Vol. 16, No. 3, November 2006, pp. 617 635

Aspects of Democratic Performance:


Democratic Adherence and Regime
Evaluation in Brazil, 2002
Rachel Meneguello
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Introduction1
Recent comparative studies in diverse national contexts on attitudes and values
explaining support to democracy have largely agreed upon identifying a wide array of
regime adherent constituencies. Nevertheless, they also stress the fact that remarkable
differences between distinct aspects associated with public support and legitimacy in
less consolidated democracies might play a crucial role for the whole democratic
consolidation process whenever public opinion and mass support to the political
system are taken into account. For Rose and Mishler (1999), for example, in spite of
the fact that in recently established democracies a usually higher degree of support to
the new regime can be verified in view of the previous authoritarian experience, a
sustained negative perception of the new regimes performance, based on the
evaluation of successive governments, eventually undermines the support already
obtained. Moreover, it suggests, even though as a frail alternative, the possibility of a
political throwback. Gunther and Montero (2003), on the other hand, based on data
assembled in several Latin American, European and Asian countries, propose
conceptual distinctions between the idea of legitimacy or support to democracy
and the idea of satisfaction with the democratic regime. On the other hand, however,
they point to a similar trend, stressing the importance of attitudinal dimensions that
convey mass support to democracy.
Norris (1999a,b) points out the prevalence of diversified underlying principles
encompassing not only appreciation of democracy by the citizens, but also an
increasing criticism towards democratic institutions. That pattern has been observed
as much in consolidated democracies as in the so-called semi-democracies. It
displays very distinct results, that is, not only destabilizing effects for the political
body, but perhaps also the activation of healthy self-regenerative capabilities among

Correspondence to: Rachel Meneguello  Center for Studies on Public Opinion at the University of Campinas
(Brazil), Departamento de Ciencia Poltica- IFCH  Caixa Postal 6110, Universidade de Campinas, Ciudade
Universitaria, Campinas  SP  cep: 13081-970, Brasil. Email: racael@unicamp.br

ISSN 0390-6701 (print)/ISSN 1469-9273 (online) # 2006 University of Rome La Sapienza


DOI: 10.1080/03906700600931426
618 R. Meneguello

democratic institutions. In both scenarios, one of the related domains involves the
underlying reasons for civil engagement, interests shared by the citizens and their
involvement with politics. Thus, acknowledgement and approval of political action
and of representative institutions are some of the aspects potentially related to a more
encompassing appreciation of democracy.
Pointing on the same direction, Norris (2003) rebukes, in a text on the foundations
of disinterest for politics and civic disengagement, the constant resort to condemna-
tion of mass media as the determinant agents behind all forms of political alienation,
stressing much more the very handicaps of representative governments as the main
cause behind disengagement. By dealing with the role played by information
absorbed by the public during electoral campaigns, the author presents positive
indicators on levels of political interest and engagement arising from access to
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political information, especially through television.


Among several not so hidden assumptions on democracy and on the democratic
systems operation invariably present in comparative investigations on regime
adherence, the above mentioned issues have been explicitly taken into account and
served to guide the modules formulation for the Brazilian Electoral Survey (ESEB),
carried out in 2002.2 One of the main goals in that survey, intended to assess
developments after 17 years under democratic rule, was to identify the core guidelines
defining Brazilian citizens views concerning the democratic idea.
Bearing upon analyses of the ESEB results, the present survey intends to assess
comparatively how similar to other countries is the pattern of adherence to the
democratic regime in Brazil, since apparently everywhere appreciation of democracy
as an ideal form of government seems to go along with growing criticism towards the
systems ongoing flaws. Our survey shows that, besides a significant level of
democracy adherence, satisfaction with the regime and general system evaluation
constitute different aspects. We also try to observe how access to political
information, assumed as one of the central elements in terms of civic engagement,
is related to regime evaluation proclivities. In this case, there prevails a very fragile
relationship, suggesting clearly dissociated dimensions.
This essay is organized in the following manner. Based on the treatment of national
data provided by the ESEB, questions have been selected so as to outline: democratic
citizens, understood as those who display some degree of commitment to democracy;
critical citizens, according to how they evaluate the performance of institutions, of the
government and of the democratic regime; and informed citizens, who have access to
the main sources of political information. Initially, we present the selection and
analysis procedures applied to the questions related to democratic adherence, as well
as the results exacted through factorial analysis. Subsequently, the same procedures
are used for questions related to satisfaction with the regime. Finally, based on the
ensuing dimensions, we proceed to analyze data concerning access to political
information. The concluding remarks intend to present a contribution in the debate
on Brazils democratic consolidation process.
Aspects of Democratic Performance 619

Dimensions of Democratic Adherence


The underlying questions in our approach to democratic adherence pursue two kinds
of guidelines. Following Gunther and Montero (2003), we regard democratic
legitimacy as an ideal type related to citizens beliefs (admittedly heterogeneous
and accordingly variable) that democratic politics and the institutions upon which it
is established represent the most adequate way for structuring the political system.
We depart from Roses approach, adopting the Churchills hypothesis (democracy
being the worst form of government except for all those other that have been tried),
for it allows a direct comparison between two distinct political situations experienced
in different moments (Rose, 2001[1997]). In order to analyze recently established
democracies, particularly in post-communist countries, the author resorts to what he
calls a contingent approach, assuming that, in some cases, a non-democratic regime
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might work better than democracy. Due to its ability to apportion some measure of
concurrence between alternative regimes, it seemed adequate to adopt it for the
Brazilian case, since the political experience largely shared by contemporary Brazilian
adult constituencies involves two opposite historical moments, an authoritarian and a
democratic one.
The second group of guidelines refers to the institutional mainstays upon which
the democratic idea is founded within the map of values shared by the surveyed
constituencies. It represents a clearly limited approach, but the survey does not intend
in any way to overstretch at this initial point the bounds of the dimension of political
representativeness so as perceived in democratic assets such as political parties and
elections. Based on survey series on public opinion and values, which point out a
crucial role played by elections and electoral participation in sustaining the idea of
democracy in Brazil after 1985 (Lavareda, 1989; Moises, 1990, 1995; Muscinsky &
Mendes, 1990), some basic issues would necessarily have to be considered, namely
those assessing inclinations towards electoral participation, as well as the importance
assigned to the electoral process and its relevance for democracy. These studies show
that by the end of the military dictatorship and beginning of the democratic period in
Brazil, the idea of democratization was explicitly linked to the promotion of direct
Presidential elections. As a matter of fact, during the democratic transition, the
dynamics of electoral participation has largely represented the convergence point for
all actions related to what we call dimension of civic engagement. Aside from that
factor, the importance of political parties as an aspect of regime performance as
perceived by the public must also be taken into account.

Adherence to Democratic Values: Analytical Procedures and Results


A methodology implementing multidimensional analysis has been developed for the
ESEB survey, encompassing elements extracted from two main components analysis
tools. First, the principal components analysis on categorical variables, which regards
the level of each measured variable, quantifies categorical variables and offers results
similar to those obtained through factorial analysis. Once determined these new,
620 R. Meneguello

from then on continuous variables, they undergo factorial analysis, and they are then
rotated, in order to allow them to emerge independently, thus maximizing loads
within their own factors and minimizing any load upon other collateral factors.
While assessing the Brazilian party system, we have cautiously decided not to
identify directly voters and vote intentions. In order to better understand how the
system is organized and some of the behavioral phenomena related to the citizens
political choices on government, economic policy and many other issues, the
appropriate entrance point seemed to be the question of adherence to democratic
values*based on a definition clearly associated with the role played by political
parties and with the political systems general performance.
The level of adherence to democracy as a form of government and to some of the
values linked to it has been accordingly measured through eight questions. Two of
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them referred to more general statements on democracy and tried to assess the
dimension of concurrence between distinct regimes: the first asked whether the
respondent agrees or disagrees with the suggestion that, in spite of its defects,
democracy is still the best form of government and the second demanded a choice
between democracy is always better and sometimes dictatorship is better. Among
the other six questions, three referred to the elections and the remaining three to
political parties. The three questions related to the elections asked the respondent to
take a stand on how efficient is a citizens vote?, would you vote even if voting
werent mandatory? and how important are the Presidential elections?. The
questions dealing with political parties demanded a positive or negative evaluation:
first, do party discussions cause benefit or damage to the country?; second, how
would you agree with the statement political parties serve only to divide people?;
the final question dealt with the association between the President and the political
parties (see Methodological Appendix 1).
While in order to analyze the foundations of democratic legitimacy and to evaluate
regime performance we have followed the distinct dimensions guidelines, defended
by the literature on the theme, the same procedure could not be followed for the idea
of democratic adherence defended here. Contrary to unidimensionality expectations,
the dimensional analysis presented in Table 1 depicts a common ground constituted
by three factors. First, the democratic adherence factor proper, deriving from the two
more loaded general questions. Although less loaded (values below 0.60), the
questions related to elections are still significantly loaded for that specific factor,
particularly the one referring to the importance of Presidential elections, which
suggests respondents clearly associate elections and democracy when giving reasons
for their adherence. The second factor, independent from the first one, involves two of
the questions about political parties. Results show that parties are not as much
associated to the perceived general level of democratic legitimacy as elections usually
are. To some extent, those data suggest a kind of mistrust towards political parties, as
other surveys have already demonstrated. The third factor isolates the question about
the desirable kind of relationship between the President and the political parties. Bearing
a quite distinctive load, though in any case isolated, that question emerges as a factor
Aspects of Democratic Performance 621

Table 1 Dimensions of democratic adherence


Rotated components matrix

Principal components

1 2 3

Opinion on changing what happens in Brazil by voting .517


Democracy has some problems, but it is still the best form .669
of government
Would vote, even if voting werent mandatory .458
Opinion about:political parties rather cause damage than .699
benefit
Opinion about: political parties serve only to divide people .751
Opinion about: the best kind of relationship between the .922
President and the political parties
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Opinion about presidential elections .592


Opinion about democracy .647
Total variance explained

Component Eigenvalues

Total % of Cumulative
variance %

1 1.946 24.320 24.320


2 1.105 13.818 38.138
3 1.015 12.683 50.821

Extraction method: Principal component analysis.

in itself and suggest a specific link between adherence to democracy and how the
Brazilian presidential system is perceived by the citizens, approaching a form of
personalistic adherence (see Table 1).
As an attempt to establish a democratic adherence index, we have proceeded, while
dealing with all variables used for that purpose, to carefully resorting to the minimal
values for the obtained loads (0.60), as well as to a separate analysis of each
question, saving the expression democratic adherence for those general questions
currently assumed by the relevant literature as valid democratic adherence indicators.
Though similar, each of the questions has a distinctive feature and occupies a distinct
position within the ESEB questionnaire.3
Those who very much agree with the first statement mount up to almost 50%
(1,245 from the total of 2,513 respondents), and 67% (1,693) always prefer
democracy when dictatorship is the alternative. Adherence to democracy seems to
rise when its contrary is mentioned. In any case, adherence to democracy is usually
very high, independently of the question used to measure it. The relation between
both questions is presented in Table 2.
Those who choose the most democratic alternative on both questions (agreeing
very much on the first and always prefering democracy on the second question) reach
almost 42%. Among those who very much agree with the democracys superiority,
622 R. Meneguello

Table 2 Democratic adherence


Opinion about democracy Total

Democracy is In some cases, It doesnt


always better dictatorships is matter,
than any other better than none is
form of democracy better
government

Opinion about: totally disagrees 54 50 9 113


Democracy has 47.8% 44.2% 8.0% 100.0%
some problems, disagrees a little 100 57 6 163
but it is the 61.3% 35.0% 3.7% 100.0%
best form of neither agrees 24 7 4 35
government nor disagrees 68.6% 20.0% 11.4% 100.0%
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than any other agrees a little 425 162 22 609


69.8% 26.6% 3.6% 100.0%
totally agrees 1059 179 7 1245
85.1% 14.4% .6% 100.0%
doesnt know 31 10 9 50
what is 62.0% 20.0% 18.0% 100.0%
democracy
Total 1693 465 57 2215
76.4% 21.0% 2.6% 100.0%

85% consider democracy always better than any other form of government; among
those who agree a little, 70% always prefer democracy. At the other extreme in the
tables main diagonal, for those who choose the least democratic alternative on both
questions, the combination is less frequent, corresponding to only 113 from a total of
2,513 respondents, that is, less than 5%. That shows clearly a high democratic
predominance within the sample. Even among those who either disagree with the
idea that in spite of its problems, democracy is still the best form of government, or
are indifferent to it, no more than 37% declared to prefer a dictatorship in some
cases.
There are, however, some cases situated outside the main diagonal: respondents
who could reveal some sort of inconsistence, who have chosen the democratic
alternative on one of the questions and the non-democratic alternative on the other.
The first of these cases refers to those who, though agreeing with democracys

Table 3 Democratic adherence index


N % Valid %

Non-democratic 1157 46.0 52.2


Democratic 1059 42.1 47.8
Total 2215 88.2 100
No information 297 11.8
Total 2513 100
Aspects of Democratic Performance 623

relative superiority, when dictatorship was mentioned as an alternative, seemed to


recall pragmatically that the latter might be better than the former, at least in some
cases. Unfortunately, the reasons for such an inconsistent preference cannot be made
clear through the data provided by the questionnaire. Although a minority
combination, that category reaches 14% of those who very much agree that
democracy is the best form of government and around 26% of those who agree a
little. Finally, there are those, on the last corner of the main diagonal on Table 2,
who disagree either a lot or a little with the idea that democracy might be better than
any other form of government, but who still choose democracy when faced with the
dictatorial alternative. They respond for 55%. It would be reasonable to think that
those citizens preferences envisage some form of government they do not regard as
democratic, but simultaneously they tend to shy away from dictatorial rule.
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In view of those findings, it is advisable to combine both variables in order to build


an index of democratic adherence. Such an index accepts as democratic preferences
only those that correspond to a strong agreement with both the idea that democracy
has some problems, but its still better than any other form of government and the
belief that democracy is always better than any other form of government. All other
possible combinations belong to the non-democratic variant, or at least to a not
entirely democratic one. The index distribution, which is a direct translation of Table
2, is depicted in Table 3. Subsequently, it will work as an analytical reference for
dealing with the remaining aspects of the democratic adherence dimension.
From among the selected aspects, which are the ones more closely associated with
democratic adherence? The data show diverse possible relations between democracy,
on one side, and opinion about elections and political parties, on the other. By
crossing the index with the contemplated variables, the data obtained depict a positive
association between democratic adherence and appreciation of elections, as well as,
though to a lesser extent, between democratic adherence and a positive evaluation of
political parties. Even though such associations are far from unexpected*consider-
ing the canon of representative democracy theories*it is important to adjust for the
Brazilian case the place occupied by the political parties along the countrys
republican political history and after 17 years of democratic rule, bearing in mind the
predominantly negative image representative institutions have among the population.
The political parties positive role is still there, associated with democracy, but in a
sensibly lower position if compared with the role assigned to the electoral systems
dynamics.
Following that tendency, another important aspect to be pointed out is the link
between democratic adherence and the idea of voting as a means of intervening in the
political arena: democrats believe more in the individual votes efficiency*72% of
them believe the vote can change a lot what happens in Brazil, compared with 59%
among the non-democrats (or democrats to a lesser extent). That is a quite significant
difference. Among democrats, 68% declare they would vote even if voting were not
mandatory, while only 44% of the non-democrats would still cast their ballots if
voting was facultative. More than a half of the democrats think Presidential elections
624 R. Meneguello

help a lot to make peoples lives better, compared with only 30% among non-
democrats.
Concerning political parties, 61% of the democrats believe discussions between
parties help to clarify political issues for the population, while the non-democrats are
pretty much divided on whether party discussions help or rather cause more damage
than benefit to Brazil. There is also a narrow distance between democrats and non-
democrats concerning the idea that parties serve only to divide people: 47% of
democrats and 34% of non-democrats disagree, while 50% of democrats and 63% of
non-democrats agree with that statement. Finally, there is no substantial difference
between democrats and non-democrats concerning their opinion about the ideal
relationship between the President and the political parties. Almost two-thirds of
each group prefer the President to be identified with a specific political party. Those
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data allow us to infer that democratic adherence and the political parties issue walk
hand in hand, although in parallel lines.

Performance Evaluation of Democratic Regimes: Analytical Procedures and


Results
Based on the conceptual distinction sustained by Gunther and Montero (2003)
between the idea of support to democracy and the idea of satisfaction with the
regime, we have resorted to a dimension that deals with regimes performance,
observed through indicators of satisfaction with democracy as it is practiced in the
country and some related issues, like diffuse government evaluation and public
services evaluation. Three sets of questions were used in order to rank citizens
criticism towards the general state of things in the country. The first one refers to
satisfaction with democracy in the country and related issues, assumed as potential
performance evaluation indicators, defined in terms of a scale of values: government
evaluation, human rights evaluation and general perception of individual freedom,
and corruption levels evaluation. The second one was based on the hypothesis that a
general regime performance evaluation is linked to the actual government performance
and, particularly, with public services performance, since it corresponds to the everyday
direct relationship between the state and its citizens, and it might, though indirectly,
influence the levels of confidence in politicians and in the government (Listhaug,
1998). Also dealing with the impact on levels of confidence, the third set of questions
(actually a single question with multiple items evaluations) evaluates public and
private institutions performance. It has been widely used on international surveys in
order to display support to democracy on a medium range scale.
We believed both questions could be congregated within a single dimension, which
would then be able to link democracy evaluation and government performance
evaluation, the latter encompassing questions dealing with general evaluation of
public services and of the Cardoso government. International surveys do not resort
often to the linkage between public services evaluation and democratic performance
evaluation. However, as we have already pointed out, the idea behind the linkage was
Aspects of Democratic Performance 625

that this kind of evaluation can deal with citizens/users perceptions concerning their
experience with the democratic states performance. It might result in a considerable
appreciation, or disapproval, towards public service in general or towards specific
public services or institutions. The questionnaire also includes one question dealing
with a general government performance evaluation specified for the Cardoso
government (see Methodological Appendix 2).
The principal components analysis based on this set of questions has displayed the
multidimensionality implied in the idea of evaluation of and satisfaction with the
democratic regime. Besides that, it has also shown that both main questions, that
actually sustain our hypothesis of regime evaluation*state services evaluation and
institutions evaluation*define one single value each, as shown in Table 4.
The Table 4 matrix depicts a three-factor solution. With significant loads higher
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than 0.7, the first factor is constituted solely by variables displaying satisfaction/
insatisfaction with public services, but it does not include all public services
mentioned on the questionnaire. Garbage collection, police and regulation of street
vendors are not contained within any of the contemplated factors. The second factor is
constituted solely by items related to institution evaluation, but it does not include all
institutions mentioned on the list either. Catholic Church and corporations have been left
aside from all contemplated factors. It is worth mentioning that the Catholic Church
achieves the best evaluation among all institutions (85%). Anyway, it must be kept in
mind that an evaluation of state performance through public services should not be
taken as equivalent of evaluation of general institutions performance. Such a
dissociation might partially imply estrangement and misunderstanding towards
political structures behind demands for practical solutions, but it might as well imply
a quite unspecific distrust towards institutions.
The third factor, a more encompassing one, involves satisfaction/dissatisfaction with
three issues: the Cardoso government during the last 4 years; the way democracy works
in Brazil; and the level of awareness and respect concerning individual freedom and
human rights. The variable corruption level among politicians has not been
included therein, rather corresponding to a fourth factor, related to a single variable
and not significantly loaded, which led us to disregard it.
What is the relationship between all three variables constituting the third, more
encompassing factor? We have assessed that question by means of bivariated relations
between, on one side, satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the way democracy works in
Brazil and, on the other side, satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the Cardoso
government during the last four years as well as with the level of awareness and
respect concerning individual freedom and human rights.
For the relationship between evaluation of the Cardoso government and
satisfaction with democratic performance in Brazil, the data show that more than
60% of the respondents declare not to be satisfied (not satisfied and not very
satisfied) with the way democracy works in the country, while 40.7% evaluate the
Cardoso government positively (excellent and good), against 45% that evaluate it
negatively (bad and very bad). Among those satisfied (satisfied and very
626 R. Meneguello

Table 4 Dimensions of democratic regime performance


Rotated component matrix

Components

1 2 3

Evaluation of the Cardoso government during the last four .604


years
Level of satisfaction with the way democracy works in Brazil .693
Opinion on the level of respect for individual freedom and .601
human rights in Brazil
Public services evaluation: public ways cleaning .713
Public services evaluation: public ways conservation .765
Public services evaluation: public squares, sport facilities and .720
leisure areas
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Public services evaluation: public schools .753


Public services evaluation: public health services .704
Public services evaluation: public ways illumination .779
Public services evaluation: water system .731
Public services evaluation: sewage system .729
Institutions evaluation: police .611
Institutions evaluation: federal government .627
Institutions evaluation: justice .652
Institutions evaluation: political parties .634
Institutions evaluation: national congress .665
Institutions evaluation: army .606
Institutions evaluation: Globo Broadcasting Network .661
Institutions evaluation: other broadcasting networks .652

Extraction method: Principal component analysis.


Rotation method: Varimax with Kaiser normalization.
Total variance explained
Component Eigenvalues
Total % of Cumulative %
variance

1 5.825 30.656 30.656


2 2.387 12.563 43.219
3 1.503 7.913 51.132

Extraction method: Principal component analysis.

satisfied) with the way democracy works in Brazil, 52% evaluate positively the
Cardoso government, against 34% that evaluate it negatively. On the other hand,
among those not satisfied with democracy in Brazil, 35% evaluate the Cardoso
government positively, against 50% that evaluate it negatively.
A high level of dissatisfaction with the way democracy works in Brazil and an even
higher level of belief that human rights are not satisfactorily respected in the country are
observable in the relation between satisfaction with democracy and human rights. As a
matter of fact, more than 60% declare not to be satisfied (not satisfied or not very
Aspects of Democratic Performance 627

Table 5 Dimension of access to information


Rotated components matrix

Components

1 2 3

Frequency reads newspapers .569


Watched any national news television program .832
Watched any local news television program .789
Frequency watches National News Program (Jornal Nacional) .726
Frequency watches Record News Program (Jornal da Record) .754
Frequency watches the tv program Attentive City (Cidade .856
Alerta)
Frequency watches the tv program Urgent Brazil (Brasil .707
Urgente)
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Listens to political radio programs .944


Total variance explained
Component Eigenvalues
Total % of Cumulative
variance %

1 2.878 35.975 35.975


2 1.368 17.099 53.074
3 1.009 12.616 65.690

Extraction method: Principal component analysis.

satisfied) with the way democracy works in Brazil, and more than 90% believe
individual freedom and human right are not respected or not very respected in the
country. Among those satisfied (satisfied and very satisfied) with the way
democracy works, the proportion of those who believe human rights are not
respected falls to around 85%. This narrow difference suggests that evaluation of the
level of respect awarded to individual freedom and human rights is relatively
independent of satisfaction with the way democracy works.
It could be suggested that disregard of human rights is behind dissatisfaction with
democracy for those respondents who declare not to be satisfied. However, on the
other hand, that element does not seem to make much difference for the idea of
democracy shared by those who declare to be satisfied or very satisfied with the
way democracy works, since they largely acknowledge a general disregard for
individual freedom and human rights. Among those who declare to be satisfied with
democracy, less than 20% believe that human rights are respected or totally
respected. This narrow group becomes even narrower (less than 5%) among those
who declare not to be satisfied with democracy in Brazil. Concerning this factor, thus,
the small variation of opinions about the level of respect for individual freedom and
human rights turns that relationship irrelevant.
The level of satisfaction with democracy occupies the same position as the
government evaluation dimension and the opinion about the level of human rights
628 R. Meneguello

awareness, but they seem to move quite independently. It might be pointed out that,
in relation to more methodological concerns, the observed results also suggest the
effect of problematic statements related to questions clearly associated with each
other, like evaluation of the federal government during the last four years,
satisfaction with democracy or evaluation of the military regime performance,
since they have eventually emerged as distinct factors.

Association between Performance Evaluation of Democratic Regimes and Access


to Information
We have mentioned at the start the broad hypothesis guiding each stage in this survey
would serve to test the link between critical adherence to democracy and more access
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to information. Behind that idea are the results found by several surveys on
democratic performance in the United States and Europe, which demonstrated that
disappointment with democratic institutions, ignorance on public matters and civic
disengagement are not ultimately a result of the kind of political communication
developed by mass media, as defended by most of the works attuned with a
pessimistic view of mass media (for instance, Norris, 2003). Evidence show that
people who watch television and read newspapers are more consistently participative,
challenging assertions that exposure to mass media discourages political learning and
favors political disengagement.
In the Brazilian case, as seen before, dissociated dimensions differentiating
relations with institutions and with public matters demand a deeper investigation
of the role played by political information in this scenario. Departing from data
provided by the ESEB, we have sought to identify what characterizes an informed
citizen in order to examine this relationship. A series of eight questions intends to
measure respondents access to mass media. It refers to access to newspapers, TV
news programs and some specific local news programs as well as radio programs
dealing with political themes (see Methodological Appendix 3).
Dimensional analysis has revealed that relevant information is distributed on a
three-dimensional basis, accounting for a total variance of more than 65% for the
variables ensemble. The first dimension might be interpreted as exposure to national
and local news programs on television and, particularly, to the main national news
TV program, the Globo Networks Jornal Nacional (National News Program).
Newspapers reading remained outside that first dimension, because of its weak load
(0.56), as well as other similarly weakly loaded variables, like watching minor TV
news programs and listening to political programs on radio. The second dimension
includes those minor TV news programs: Record Network News (local news
programs dealing with crime and police cases in a rather sensationalistic way, like
Record Networks Cidade Alerta (Attentive City), and Bandeirantes Networks Brasil
Urgente (Urgent Brazil). The latter are news programs broadcast by relatively small
TV networks, if compared with Globo Networks audience rates, what represents
in itself a decisive aspect for understanding the first dimensions composition.
Aspects of Democratic Performance 629

Moreover, most are distinguishably identified by their sensationalistic approach and


their exclusive focus on crime, police matters and news related to the violent everyday
life in big cities. The third dimension is composed by a single, significantly loaded
variable (0.94): exposure to political programs on radio. Taking into account the
predominance of television as the main mass communication medium, this
dimension becomes all the more significant, for it denotes the resilience of a niche
where radio survives as a medium for political information. The survey data show
that 71.5% of those who declare to listen often to the radio in order to get political
information live predominantly in small towns, being mostly older than 35 (62%) and
equally distributed in terms of sex, educational attainment and income, even if
compared to those who declare not to listen to radio. Therefore, concerning access to
political information, there prevails in small towns a clear combination of television
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and radio as dissemination media.


Based on information provided by the ESEB, informed citizens are those who have
access to information made available by mass media, mostly through national and
local TV news programs, particularly Globoss Jornal Nacional, but also Records
national news program and Records and Bandeirantes local news programs, as well
as those who frequently listen to radio news programs. As much in terms of variance
due to each of the factors as in terms of content, the first one is the most significant of
all factors.
Newspapers reading neither attains a significant rank in any of the assessed
dimensions nor emerges as an isolated dimension. Its relative irrelevance might be
explained by its low frequency (people who admit reading newspapers at least once a
week, 45%; those who admit having watched a local news program at least once
during the previous week, 53%; and those who admit watching Globos Jornal
Nacional at least once a week, 73%), as much as by cumulativeness or super-
position*people who read newspapers are also those whose watch news on TV. In
fact, 83% of those who declared having read a daily newspaper at least once during
the previous week also declared having watched Globos Jornal Nacional at least once
during the same period. Inversely, among those who declared having watched Globos
Jornal Nacional at least once during the previous week, only 45% declared having
read a daily newspaper at least once during the same period. Therefore, in this survey,
an informed citizen is predominantly someone who watches news programs on TV.
What are the links between access to information and democracy performance
evaluation? Based on the correlation established between a factor constituted both by
the dimension of institution and public service performance evaluation and general
satisfaction with the regime on one side, and the dimension of access to information
on the other, we have observed that those dimensions are practically dissociated. The
relevant correlative values are pretty low, indicating that access to information
through TV news programs, particularly Globo Networks Jornal Nacional, indicates
some sort of association with the focused factors rates: public services evaluation
(r0.140) and public and private institutions evaluation (r 0.182). However, these
/ /

values are not that significant for the more general regime performance dimension,
630 R. Meneguello

wherein variables such as satisfaction with democracy, Federal government


evaluation and human rights awareness in the country are represented (see
Table 6). Data point out a low and negative correlation between factors such as
general regime performance and access to information through sensationalistic TV
news programs (r 0.102).
/

Finally, data suggest that, as much for groups that accept democracy as a value and
as an adequately working system as for groups highly distrustful towards institutions
and public services, there is a poorly significant relation between their trust/distrust
and access to mass media. It is thus implied that the role played by mass media
should be disconsidered as a constitutive dimension for democratic adherence and
legitimacy.
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Concluding Remarks
The survey displays some modest but very significant findings for the analysis of
democratic consolidation in Brazil. Firstly, a democratic adherence factor at work
among Brazilian citizens has been identified, which confirms the above mentioned
Churchill hypothesis: both questions measuring democratic legitimacy and
sustaining the democratic adherence index reflect in fact the preference for
democracy in contrast to the experience of alternative regimes. It goes along with a
strong positive appreciation of the electoral process as a tool for political
intervention, in a combination with 24.3% explained variance. Positive evaluation
of political parties emerges less intensely and seems to portray how fragile the
relationship between citizens and their representative organizations still is.
Secondly, concerning the dimension of democratic performance evaluation, we have
found an intriguing dissociation between the set of questions related to institutional
evaluation and satisfaction with democracy in the country, which ultimately
corresponded to clearly distinct dimensions, as demonstrated by factorial analysis.
On one side, it suggests that, on the citizens map of values, a good democratic
performance is independent from the evaluation of private and public institutions
performance  including the representative ones. On the other side, a clear link
between the level of satisfaction with democracy and the evaluation of government
performance has been demonstrated, although the factor behind those issues does
not contribute much for the explained variance (8%). Even though in view of the
representative democracy theories the link between elections and democratic
performance might be expected anyway, it seems important to stress that electoral
participation still corresponds to a central element for civic political engagement.
Coherently, the observed dissociation between the dimension of public services
evaluation and the dimensions of government evaluation and of institutions
performance evaluation must be more thoroughly examined. On one side, with a
significant explained variance (30.6%), the dimension of services evaluation shows
that the satisfaction with the way democracy works in the country depends largely on
the evaluation of everyday public actions, particularly those more closely meeting
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Table 6 Correlation Matrix between factors of Performance and Access to information dimensions (see Table 4 and 5)
Factor 1  Factor 2  Factor 3  Factor 1  Factor 2  Factor 3 
informed informed informed performance performance performance
citizen (main citizen (other citizen (radio) evaluation evaluation evaluation
national news national news (public (institutions) (general level of
program) programs services) satisfaction with
democracy)

Factor 1  r Pearson
informed citizen N
Factor 2  r Pearson .024
informed citizen N 2415
Factor 3  r Pearson /.011 .028

Aspects of Democratic Performance


informed citizen N 2415 2415
Factor 1  r Pearson .140** /.042 /.004
performance N 1857 1857 1857
Factor 2  r Pearson .182** /.047* /.003 /.025
performance N 1857 1857 1857 1918
Factor 3  r Pearson .036 /.102** .066** /.005 .002
performance N 1857 1857 1857 1918 1918

**Significant at the 0.01 level; *significant at the 0.05 level.

631
632 R. Meneguello

citizens expectations. On the other hand, the dissociation of all three factors suggests
that, for the average citizen, fulfillment of his/her everyday expectations, govern-
ment performance, democratic system performance and institutions performance are
not clearly or directly related.
If we intend to understand and examine democratic consolidation in Brazil, it is
somehow a cause for concern to notice that evaluation of representative institutions
performance does not occupy the same position as satisfaction with the democratic
regime. In order to assess this issue, a deeper examination on the concept of
satisfaction with democracy is required. Nevertheless, such a concern should not
overshadow the incidence of a strong adherence to democracy in the country,
channeled as much through elections and the principle of alternance in power as
through disappointment and dissatisfaction with the governments actual perfor-
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mance.

Notes
[1] I am indebted to Vitor Cooke Vieira and Clecio Ferreira for their work in organizing the data
here presented. Special thanks to Plinio Dentzien for his careful reading and suggestions.
[2] The Brazilian Electoral Survey (ESEB, Estudo Eleitoral Brasileiro) was a national survey
following academic standards developed by the DATAUFF (Research, Information and Public
Policy Center at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) and the CESOP (Center of Public
Opinion Studies at the State University of Campinas) after the 2002 elections, between
November 10th and December 23rd. It comprised 2530 interviews and encompassed the
whole country. It was carried out with the support of the CAPES (Brazilian Coordination
Body for the Improvement of Academic Personnel) and the FAPESP (Sao Paulo State
Foundation for Research Funding).
[3] The questions were namedly: (1) Democracy has some problems, but it is better than any
other form of government; (2) In your opinion: (a) democracy is always better than any
other form of government; OR (b) in some cases, a dictatorship might be better than
democracy; OR (c) it doesnt matter/none of them is better.

References
Gunther, Richard & Montero, Jose Ramon (2003) Legitimidade poltica em novas democracias,
Revista Opiniao Publica , vol. IX, no. 1, pp. 1 43.
Lavareda, Antonio (1989) Governo, Partidos e Eleicoes segundo a opiniao publica: o Brasil de 1989
comparado ao de 1964, Revista Dados , vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 341 362.
Listhaug, Ola & Wiberg, Matti (1998) Confidence in Political and Private Institutions , eds
Klingemann & Fuchs, Citizens and the State, Oxford UP.
Moises, Jose Alvaro (1990) Eleicoes, Participacao e Cultura Poltica: Mudancas e Continuidades,
Revista Lua Nova , no. 22, pp. 133 187.
Moises, Jose Alvaro (1995) Os Brasileiros e a Democracia. Bases socio-polticas da legitimidade
democratica , SP, Ed. Atica.
Muscynski, Maria Judith & Mendes, Antonio Manuel Teixeira (1990) Democratizacao e opiniao
publica no Brasil, in Lamounier, Bolivar (org.). De Geisel a Collor:o balanco da transicao. SP,
Ed. Sumare.
Norris, Pippa (ed.) (1999a) Introduction:the growth of Critical citizens?, Critical Citizens, Oxford
UP.
Aspects of Democratic Performance 633

Norris, Pippa (ed.) (1999b) Conclusions:the growth of Critical citizens and its consequences,
Critical Citizens, Oxford UP.
Norris, Pippa (2000) A virtous circle? The impact of political communications in post-industrial
democracies, mimeo.
Norris, Pippa (2003) Tuned out voters? Media impact on campaign learning, Politeia Conference,
May 2003, mimeo.
Rose, Richard (2001) Medidas de survey sobre democracia. Revista Opiniao Publica , vol. VIII,
no. 1, pp. 1 29.
Rose, Richard & Mishler, William (1999) Five years after the fall: trajectories of support for
democracy in post-communist Europe, ed. Pippa Norris, Critical Citizens, Oxford UP.

Methodological Appendix 1
Questions:
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1. Democracy has some problems, but it is still better than any other form of
government. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Very much or not so
much?

2. Which of the following statements do you agree more with?


(a) Democracy is always better than any other form of government OR
(b) In some cases, a dictatorship is better than democracy.
(c) It doesnt matter / None is better than the other.

3. Some people say our vote doesnt change much what happens in Brazil, while other
say our vote doesnt change AT ALL what happens in Brazil. We would like you to rate
these statements from 1 to 5, 5 meaning our vote changes a lot and 1 meaning it
doesnt change AT ALL what happens in Brazil. What do you think?

4. Would you still vote even if voting werent mandatory?

5. Which of the following statements do you agree more with?


1 Discussions between political parties cause more damage than benefit to Brazil OR
2 Discussions between political parties clarify for the people many important issues
and therefore are of great advantage for the country.

6. Some people say political parties serve only to divide people. Do you agree or
disagree with that statement? Very much or not so much?

7. Which is better, a President of the Republic who . . .


(a) Can be identified with a political party OR
(b) Doesnt pay any attention to political parties?
634 R. Meneguello

8. Which of the following statements do you agree more with?


1 Presidential elections help a lot to make peoples lives better,
2 Presidential elections help a little to make peoples lives better? OR
3 Presidential elections do not help to make peoples lives any better?

Methodological Appendix 2
Questions:

1. In your opinion, during the last 4 years the Fernando Henrique government has
been . . . Excellent Good Bad OR Really bad Not so good Not so bad
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2. Are you altogether very satisfied, satisfied, not very satisfied or not satisfied with
the performance of democracy in Brazil?

3. Do you think that in Brazil individual freedom and human rights are totally
respected, respected, not very respected or not respected at all?

4. In your opinion, does corruption take place among politicians in Brazil all the
time, most of the time, every now and then or never?

5. From among this list of public services, could you rate from 0 to 10 your level of
satisfaction with each of them. From 0 to 10, how satisfied are you with . . .
(a) garbage collection, (b) police, (c) public ways cleaning, (d) public ways
conservation, (e) regulation of street vendors, pubs and shops, (f) general availability
and conservation of public squares, sport facilities and leisure areas, (g) public
schools, (h) the public health system, (i) public ways illumination, (j) water system,
(k) sewage system.

6. Could you rate as excellent, good, bad or really bad the performance of each of the
following institutions? (a) Catholic Church, (b) Police, (c) Federal Government, (d)
Judicial System, (e) Corporations, (f) Political Parties, (g) Parliament, (h) Army, (i)
Globo Broadcasting Network, (j) Other broadcasting networks.

Methodological Appendix 3
Questions:

How many days a week do you read a daily newspaper?

Have you watched any national news program on television this week?

Have you watched any local news program on television this week?
Aspects of Democratic Performance 635

How many days a week do you watch the Globo Channel news program Jornal
Nacional?

How many days a week do you watch the Record Channel news program?

How many days a week do you watch the Record Channel news program Cidade?

How many days a week do you watch the Band Channel news program Brasil
Urgente?

Do you listen often to radio programs focused on political themes?


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Methodological appendix: Technical informations  Brazilian Electoral Survey (ESEB)


Universe: Brazilian population
Sample: 2.513 interviews; representative sample for the Brazilian population over 16
years old.
The features of the sample range are as following:
 probabilistic without substitution;
 selection in 3 stages: Municipality (Primary Sampling Unit), Censitary sector (Secondary Sampling Unit)
and Domicile (Tertiary Sampling Unit)

Brazils political-administrative regional division have been considered as guidelines


for the selection of municipalities: North, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast and South.
All 27 State capitals have been considered as self-representative. Thus, the ESEB
covers 6 geographical strata:
Northern region; Midwestern region; Northeastern region; Southeastern region;
Southern region; and the State Capitals.
Error margin: 3 percentual points / Trust margin: 95%
Domicile interviews
Interviews timeline: postelectoral period, between October 31st and December 28th
2002.
Survey Coordination: Rachel Meneguello and Fernando Antonio Lourenco (CESOP
and IFCH/UNICAMP), Alberto Almeida and Zairo Cheibub (DataUFF).