The Fearful Citizen: Crime and Support for Democracy in Latin America


This article shows that while the impact of crime victimization on support for democracy is sensitive to question wording, the influence of fear of crime on this attitude is consistent and immune to measurement effects. We construe this as evidence that fear of crime has greater attitudinal consequences for democratic support than crime victimization. We show that fear of crime is affected by actual individual and contextual levels of crime victimization as well as evaluations of regime performance. Finally, and consistent with the affective intelligence literature, we find that crime fails to activate people’s surveillance systems in countries that exhibit very low levels of it (typically, where less than 10% of respondents report to have been victims of crime). It is only in countries that have significant crime victimization where fear of it becomes a factor affecting support for democracy.
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