This thesis investigates what creates legitimacy for national regimes, paying most attention to the importance of Quality of Government relative to electoral democracy. Quality of Government is believed to be more important in creating regime legitimacy because impartial exercise of public authority (i.e. Quality of Government) has more direct and important consequences for people’s lives than impartial treatment of people’s political preferences (i.e. electoral democracy).
Regime legitimacy is defined as diffuse regime support - support given to a regime because people believe it is morally right to obey the regime - and divided into three levels using Pippa Norris’ (1999) expansion of David Easton (1965) typology of political support: support for regime principles, support for regime performance and support for regime institutions.
The effects of Quality of Government and electoral democracy are tested against factors that are brought forward by other theories as sources of legitimacy: education, age, post-materialist values, social capital, economic performance and low ethnic fractionalization.
The effects of all of these factors on regime legitimacy are analyzed through a series of multi-level analyses using data from World Values Survey (2005 wave) and the Quality of Government dataset, looking at each level of regime legitimacy separately.
The main finding of this thesis is that Quality of Government is the main source of regime legitimacy, while electoral democracy has little or no independent effect. Other than social capital, none of the other theorized sources of legitimacy has effects that consistently improve a regime’s legitimacy.