“Good Citizens” in Democratic Hard Times

Date01 January 2022
Published date01 January 2022
Subject MatterWhen Mass Politics Fails to Ensure Democracy
68 ANNALS, AAPSS, 699, January 2022
DOI: 10.1177/00027162211069729
“Good Citizens”
in Democratic
Hard Times
How do citizens define their civic obligation when their
country faces a democratic threat? Do citizens of a
democracy think it is important to uphold liberal demo-
cratic values or to participate in governance? Do they
embrace values that protect democracy, or do they just
protect their political party or “side”? I examine
changes to citizenship norms in the context of demo-
cratic threat using observational data from the United
States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. I compare
trends between 2004 and 2019, which show a weaken-
ing in the consensus of “good citizen” norms.
Specifically, partisans on the Left are more likely to
value diversity, vigilance, and tolerance; while partisans
on the Right become more supportive of values like
obeying the law. These differences are reduced in
consensus-based political systems, but still the conse-
quences are concerning: when the ties of citizenship
norms become weaker, so too does national unity,
which is integral to democratic legitimacy and stability.
Keywords: citizenship norms; obligation; democratic
threat; liberal values; partisanship
Citizenship is the bedrock of democracy.
Citizens acknowledge that their status
comprises rights and responsibilities, but they
disagree over what those rights and responsi-
bilities are. For some, citizenship is a set of
behavioral obligations. For these individuals,
what it means to be a “good citizen” is being
politically active: voting, helping others, maybe
protesting. For others, citizenship is a set of
values. For these individuals, good citizenship
is expressed in a series of commitments to lib-
eral democratic norms: mutual toleration, for-
bearance, accepting diversity, and equality. And
Sara Wallace Goodman is an associate professor of
political science at the University of California, Irvine
(UCI). Her research interests are in citizenship and
national belonging. She is the author of Citizenship in
Hard Times (Cambridge University Press 2021) and
coauthor of the forthcoming Pandemic Politics
(Princeton University Press).
Correspondence: swgood@uci.edu

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