Democracy as a legitimizing ideology

P. J. Henry, Geoffrey Wetherell, Mark J. Brandt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Democracy as an abstract belief system bestows rights to individuals and serves egalitarian principles. However, the language of democracy may be used to justify harmful treatment of others in the world. Data from 3 representative samples of adults are presented demonstrating that satisfaction with and support for democracy are associated with support for militarism, a hierarchy-maintaining tool, among those who oppose equality compared with those who support equality. Furthermore, these data highlight the importance of political (Study 2) and historical (Study 3) contexts, demonstrating that democracy is associated with militarism particularly when people oppose equality, in contexts in which democracy is especially valued, and at historical moments when it is militarily expedient (i.e., wartime).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)648-664
Number of pages17
JournalPeace and Conflict
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2015


  • Democracy
  • Equality
  • Legitimizing ideology
  • Militarism
  • Social dominance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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