This study provides a novel contribution to the democracy–inequality literature by presenting the belief in democratic redistribution (the view that redistribution is an essential characteristic of democracy) as a conditioning factor. Democracy is expected to reduce inequality when people perceive redistribution as an essential characteristic of it, yet initial analysis shows contrasting results depending on the operationalisation of the indicator. Subsequent findings show, perhaps surprisingly, that democracy is only correlated with lower inequality when more people regard elections and liberties, instead of redistribution, as the essential characteristics of democracy. Democracy is associated with higher inequality when a larger share of the population considers redistribution to be essential to it. It is suggested that in response to the utilitarian view of democracy, authoritarian leaders can gain legitimacy by reducing inequality, whereas elected leaders in a democracy can hold power with little action on redistribution. Copyright © 2021 European Consortium for Political Research.
CitationWong, M. Y. H. (2021). Democracy, belief in democratic redistribution, and income inequality. European Political Science. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1057/s41304-021-00350-w
- Income inequality