Economic development and democracy: An electoral connection

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Scholars continue to debate whether economic development affects regime type. This article argues that a clear relationship exists between development and the electoral component of democracy, but not – or at least less so – between development and other components of broader understandings of democracy. This is so because development enhances the power resources of citizens and elections provide a focal point for collective action. The theory is tested with two new datasets – Varieties of Democracy and Lexical Index of Electoral Democracy – that allow us to disaggregate the concept of democracy into meso- and micro-level indicators. Results of these tests corroborate the theory: only election-centred indicators are robustly associated with economic development. This may help to account for apparent inconsistencies across extant studies and shed light on the mechanisms at work in a much-studied relationship. Further analysis shows that development affects electoral democracy by reducing electoral fraud, election violence and vote buying.


  • Carl Henrik Knutsen
  • John Gerring
  • Svend Erik Skaaning
  • Jan Teorell
  • Matthew Maguire
  • Michael Coppedge
  • Staffan I. Lindberg
External organisations
  • University of Oslo
  • Aarhus University
  • Boston University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Gothenburg
  • University of Texas
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


  • democracy, democratisation, economic development, elections, modernisation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-314
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch