How Global Citizens Think About Democracy: A Lecture by Professor Doh Chull Shin

Professor Duh Chull Shin on How Global Citizens Think About Democracy

Professor Doh Chull Shin on How Global Citizens Think About Democracy

On Tuesday, October 10, 2017, the JCU Department of Political Science and International Affairs welcomed University of California Irvine Professor Doh Chull Shin for the lecture “How Global Citizens Think About Democracy.”

JCU Political Science Professor Bridget Welsh welcomed Prof. Shin, who is Jack W. Peltason Scholar in Residence at the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of California, Irvine. Previously, he held the Korea Foundation and Middlebush Chairs of comparative politics and Korean politics at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri.  Professor Shin is widely published with multiple books and articles in leading journals. His current research on democratization seeks to assess the authenticity of avowed support for democracy among contemporary global citizenries and to ascertain the patterns in which cultural values and socioeconomic modernization shape the process of democratization in East Asia and other non-Western regions.

Democracy is one of the oldest terms in political science, so important to become a “mother word” in the field, said Professor Shin. This eminent status seems to prevent anyone from saying anything negative about democracy. At the same time, the latest global surveys on the relationship between citizens and democracy show favorable views for over 90% of the respondents. Professor’s Shin research stems from this idea: if the term democracy is automatically associated with a positive connotation, how is it possible to measure the actual proclivities of citizens on the matter? Moreover, are all the survey respondents capable of correctly defining democracy, and are their definitions similar enough to be comparable?

Professor Shin’s research originates from the definition of democracy as a political term or ideal, and democracy as a political regime. He then classified democratic support into categories ranging between informed and uninformed, authentic and superficial, and committed and uncommitted, among others. Subsequent surveys among world citizens on their support for democracy gave Professor Shin very different results compared to the earlier polls. His research showed, for instance, that 77% of Chinese and 88% of Vietnamese respondents were satisfied with how their countries are run as a democracy despite the fact that neither of the two is a democratic state.

Professor Shin noted how only in the “Democratic West” a majority of citizens are well-informed about what democracy is (59.4%), as opposed to the rest of the world. Moreover, while in the west half the citizens are “superficial democrats” (who like the idea of the democracy) and half are “authentic democrats” (who support democracy as a political regime), in the rest of the world, on average, only 25% of citizens are authentic democrats. These findings, Professor Shin concluded, confute the thesis that democracy has become a universally favored political system.