Discussion paper

DP11460 What makes governments popular?

Why are some governments popular with their citizens while others get low approval ratings? International surveys show enormous variation both across countries and over time. In what we believe to be the first systematic, global, comparative study of political approval, we examine a panel of government ratings from 128 countries including both democracies and authoritarian states, over the years 2005-2014. We find that good economic performance is robustly correlated with higher approval in both democracies and non-democracies. Approval is also higher in the year of a presidential election in both types of regimes. In non-democracies, information matters: greater press freedom and internet penetration result in lower approval while internet censorship is associated with higher approval; these variables have no impact on approval in democracies. We did not find any clear relationship with repression, suggesting that if fear inflates ratings in non-democracies this may be offset by the dissatisfaction that repression also causes.


Guriev, S and D Treisman (eds) (2016), “DP11460 What makes governments popular?”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 11460. https://cepr.org/publications/dp11460