Authoritarianism and Intolerance Under Autocratic and Democratic Regimes


  • Kris Dunn


Based on findings indicating that authoritarians express greater intolerance in situations where diversity is more apparent, Stenner (2005) proposes that democracies may sabotage their stability by allowing the unbridled expression of societal pluralism. She therefore suggests that pluralism in democracies be suppressed in order to pacify authoritarians and the threat their unbridled intolerance may pose to the stability of these countries. Based on data from the World and European Values Surveys, I examined 75,478 individuals across 75 countries to determine if authoritarians are indeed more intolerant in more democratic societies; a key assumption upon which Stenner’s suggestion rests. While authoritarianism was more strongly and negatively related to tolerance in more democratic countries, authoritarians in more democratic countries were more tolerant than were authoritarians in more autocratic countries. I argue that Stenner’s concern may be valid if we strictly consider rapid pluralization within a single generation within consolidating democracies, but for established democracies, her concern appears unwarranted.