Democracy is in a 'dire state': Local professor says before Election Day

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Same values, with different beliefs: That's what a local college professor says about the status of voters approaching Election Day.

"I think the key is we can think about democracy as this big game of trust," said Michael Pasek, an assistant professor of psychology at UIC, said.

Pasek is the lead author of a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports. His research indicates that for democratic norms to be strong, it's not enough that people themselves value democratic principles. They must also believe that others do too.

"Essentially, we need to think that our opponents are willing to play by the rules. If we don't think that our opponents are playing by the same rules that we are, we can justify our own party violating the rules because we think it's the only way to maintain equity or fairness," he explained.

When it comes to the current state of democracy, Pasek believes things are not looking positive.

"I think we're in a dire state. And we as citizens have a really big role to play in deciding whether our democracy endures," he said.

And it's not about one side verses the other. The new study shows that both political parties play a role.

"We found, like previous research, that both Democrats and Republicans highly valued democratic norms, rating them at about a 90 out of 100. But when they estimated how much members of their opposing party valued those norms, they estimated that their own party valued them between 50 and 80% more than the opposing party," Pasek said.

And when you think your side is right, you could be more willing to do wrong.

"We asked people how much they would personally endorse actual violations of democratic principles in practice," Pasek explained. "We found that the same people who reported believing that their own party valued democratic norms more than opposing party members did were actually the people most willing to support basic principles of democracy being violated for partisan gain."

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