9 out of 10 citizens say democracy is better than any other political regime

Ikerketaren emaitzen aurkezpena

Arantzazulab, in collaboration with the three Basque universities, presents the initial results of the research project on democracy.

Naiara Goia, Arantzazulab’s Managing Director; Agustin Erkizia, vice-rector of the Donostia campus of the UPV/EHU; Xabier Riezu, vice-rector of the Donostia campus of the University of Deusto; and Nagore Ipiña, dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Communication Sciences of Mondragon Unibertsitatea presented the initial results of the research project ‘Conceptions of democracy in the Basque Country’ to the press this morning. This work, by a questionnaire developed to citizens, aims to find out the different perceptions, beliefs and opinions that exist about democracy in our society.

Work carried out at Ikerketa Elkargunea (the Research Meeting Point)

This research has been carried out within the framework of Ikerketa Elkargunea (the Research Meeting Point) promoted by Arantzazulab. This space for collaborative research between the UPV/EHU, the University of Deusto and Mondragon Unibertsitatea began in 2021, and its aim is for interdisciplinary researchers from the three universities to work together in the generation of new knowledge, reflecting and researching jointly to respond to the challenges of the future and develop new knowledge.

In the first year of the Ikerketa Elkargunea, and after different working sessions with 50 researchers from the 3 universities, two priority research areas were established because they are fundamental and directly related to the activity of Arantzazulab. The construction of a framework and basic research on Collaborative Governance; and the development of basic research on Democracy. Today’s meeting, which is precisely related to this second area, serves to present the initial results of the research project developed on Democracy.

Not surprisingly, the current concern about democracy is enormous: the crisis of democracy, political dissatisfaction, restlessness and disaffection among citizens are issues that are all in vogue in the West. Much research is being carried out around the world, and also here, to respond to existing concerns about democracy. Complementary to this, and in an attempt to answer a question that has not been explored much here so far, we have initiated this line of inquiry: How is democracy understood? What conceptions of democracy are there? To this end, in this research we have combined three activities and methods: theoretical work to delve deeper into the current core debates, qualitative research into the democratic system conceptions of the different stakeholders, and a questionnaire on citizens’ perceptions of democracy. Thus, the aim has been to discover the different ideas and opinions that exist in our society on democracy, to connect them to the main debates at the world level, and at the same time to provide evidence and data on citizens’ conceptions of democracy. This is still an ongoing research project, and today we present the initial results of the citizens questionnaire.

Characteristics of the questionnaire

The questionnaire was conducted by telephone (using the CATi system). For this purpose, a representative sample of the population of the Basque Autonomous Community over 18 years of age was selected, taking into account factors such as age, gender, employment status and size of municipality, among others. A total of 2,173 people were interviewed, 1,022 in Bizkaia, 661 in Gipuzkoa and 490 in Araba.

The questionnaire was specifically designed considering three main variables: capture the key research questions, take into accont other research on political or democratic culture in Basque society, and the introduction of standard questions being used internationally. Thus, to a certain extent, the results have made it possible to carry out comparative research and to compare our territory with other Western countries and regions. At the same time, the questions asked for the first time they create the opportunity of generating new knowledge.  Thus, we have find out what citizens think and how they evaluate democracy.

Initial research results

The results, presented today prior to analysing them, are available in the attached report. In the coming months, researchers will interpret and cross-check the data, analyse it and present it in a meaningful way. In the presentation, Naiara Goia, Arantzazulab’s Managing Director, highlighted the report’s main findings:

  1. Preferred political regime: When asked about the preferred political regime, a large majority (88.4%) say that Democracy is better than any other form of government, a fact to be underlined.
  2. Degree of satisfaction with the way that democracy operates: When asked about the degree of satisfaction with the way that democracy functions, more than a third say that they are not very or not at all satisfied. On the other hand, 56.9% say they are quite satisfied.
  3. Perception of citizens’ on their capacity to influence politics: When asked about the perception of citizens’ on their capacity to influence politics, subjective political efficacy is very low: 64.1% believe that the political system allows individual citizens very little or none at all capacity to influence politics. In other words, two out of three citizens consider that the average citizen does not have the possibility to influence the political system.
  4. Perception of the relevance that politicians give to citizens: When asked to what extent would you say that politicians care about what citizens think, 66.7% think that they care very little or not at all.
  5. The feelings that the word democracy provokes: Regarding the feelings that the word democracy provokes, more than a third of the feelings that the word democracy provokes in them are indifference, distrust, and irritation. However, it is important to note that for 51.8% it also means commitment.
  6. Various characteristics of democracy: A large majority connect democracy with ensuring people’s rights and freedoms, with securing citizens’ economic wellbeing, with the existence of mechanisms for effective controling the government, or with justice being equal for all. On the other hand, the possibility of change in government between the different parties that stand for election or the existence of political parties as instruments to represent the people are the statements with the lowest ratings. In other words, those statements that are understood as “politics” in the political system are the ones that most distort democracy according to citizens.
  7. Models of participation: When asked about the most democratic model of participation, the one closest to the democratic idea, 58.6% say that the most democratic model of participation is to elect by vote the representatives who act on our behalf to solve problems. But 34.4% prefer other forms of organisation.
  8. Preference in government characteristics: Looking at the preferred characteristics for governments in the democratic system, it is striking that citizens prefer values and principles over efficiency: 75% prefer governments to be less efficient but to have values and principles.
  9. Preference for the characteristics of political representatives: The type of political representative who wants to improve society on the basis of his or her values and ideas is preferred by 5.5 out of 10 citizens; but for 4 out of 10 the experience and training of political representatives is more important.
  10. Level of agreement with some statements about politics: 82% of citizens demand that governments govern on the basis of scientific criteria and the opinions of experts. On the other hand, half of the population does not consider that the increase in the number of political parties has improved democracy in the Basque Autonomous community, although 43% think it has. Asked about fake news, 7 out of 10 citizens believe that it would be a good idea to create an agency to deal with this type of news.
  11. Defending democracy: In the face of possible threats, 75% of the population said they would be prepared to defend democracy if it was threatened. Only 11% are not prepared to do so.


The results presented today are captured in the attached report. Once the fieldwork has been carried out and publicly presented to society, more in-depth studies and reflections are still pending: cross-referencing of results, full exploitation of data, interpretations… In the coming months, the researchers will carry out this task at the Arantzazulab Ikerketa Elkargunea (Research Meeting Point). The data, property of Arantzazulab, will be made available in the near future.