Study finds voters skeptical about fairness of elections. Many favor a strong, undemocratic leader

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Voters in 19 countries, including in three of the world’s largest democracies, are widely skeptical about whether their political elections are free and fair, and many favor a strong, undemocratic leader, according to a study released Thursday.

The report by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, or International IDEA, concluded that “democratic institutions are falling short of people’s expectations.” The 35-member organization promotes democracy worldwide.

”It is past time that people’s perceptions are centered in conversations about the future of democracy; this analysis is a small but important first step towards that effort,” the Stockholm-based organization wrote.

The surveys had a margin of error hovering around 2-4% and the number of respondents in each country was around 1,500. The sole exception was the Solomon Islands, where the small population meant they had a representative sample of 526 people, IDEA said.

In 17 countries, fewer than half of the people are satisfied with their governments, International IDEA found. The survey included three of the largest democracies — Brazil, India and the United States.

In eight countries, “more people have favorable views of ‘a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliament or elections,’” the institute said, adding that India and Tanzania stand out as countries “with relatively high levels of support for a ‘strong leader.’”

In only four countries do “a majority feel they are doing better economically than their parents,” according to the 95-page study titled “The Perceptions of Democracy Survey.” It added that in the majority of countries, minorities are more doubtful about electoral credibility than others.

The poorest in Brazil, Colombia, Romania, and Sierra Leone, are more likely to approve of the government’s performance than the rest of the population, IDEA said.

When it comes to judicial systems, in 18 countries “fewer than half of the people believe that the courts ‘always’ or ‘often’ provide access to justice.” Iraqis have more faith in access to justice (28% ‘always’ or ‘often’) than Americans (26%). Denmark is the only country where a majority of people feel that courts often or always provide equal access to justice, said IDEA.

Its report was based on surveys made in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Gambia, India, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, Pakistan, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, the Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Tanzania and the United States.

The surveys were carried out by YouGov and GeoPoll and were done either by telephone or via the internet last year, except for India where it was carried out in January.

International IDEA was founded in 1995. It was designed to “identify important but often neglected differences between various groups’ assessments of and attitudes related to democracy.”

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