Popular versus Elite Democracies and Human Rights: Inclusion Makes a Difference

Devin K. Joshi, J. S. Maloy, Timothy M. Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Scholarly research generally finds that democratic governments are more likely to respect human rights than other types of regimes. Different human rights practices among long-standing and affluent democracies therefore present a puzzle. Drawing from democratic theory and comparative institutional studies, we argue more inclusive or "popular" democracies should enforce human rights better than more exclusive or "elite" democracies, even in the face of security threats from armed conflict. Instead of relying on the Freedom House or Polity indexes to distinguish levels of democracy, we adopt a more focused approach to measuring structures of inclusion, the Institutional Democracy Index (IDI), which captures meaningful differences in how electoral and other institutions channel popular influence over policy-making. Analyzing levels of physical integrity rights through a time-series cross-sectional research design of forty-nine established democracies, supplemented by structured case comparisons, reveals a significant and robust relationship between more inclusive democratic institutions and better respect for human rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-126
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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