Universiteit Leiden

nl en


How do citizens define and value the rule of law? A conjoint experiment in Germany and Poland

Globally, democracy and the rule of law are receding, particularly in Europe, threatening EU unity. This article investigates the causes and examines how differing public perceptions of the rule of law contribute to this trend.

Jaroslaw Kantorowicz, Jerg Gutmann & Stefan Voigt
07 March 2024

The rule of law is a foundational principle of the European Union (EU) and figures prominently in Art. 2 of the Treaty on European Union. The political union depends crucially on governments and citizens in all member states being bound by the law and on citizens of different member states being treated equally by courts and public authorities. EU member states are expected to implement all their public policies in line with the principles of the rule of law. The fragile rule of law situation in Hungary and Poland in recent years is named frequently as one of the main and existential threats to the cohesion and effective operation of the EU. However, to evaluate the significance of the rule of law crisis in the EU as well as the appropriate response by the European Commission and member states, it is crucial to establish whether the citizens of Hungary and Poland support their governments’ institutional reforms or whether they are, to the contrary, supportive of preserving and promoting rule of law principles.

To this end, the authors ran two conjoint experiments on well-powered quota representative samples of the German and the Polish population. Interestingly, however, the evidence is not consistent with their main expectations. Germans and Poles are, in fact, very similar in how they value and define the rule of law. This is a startling finding, given that another author has identified Poland in its Democracy Report 2021 as the number one autocratizing country over the last decade. Moving beyond the cross-country comparisons and in line with pre-registered hypotheses, the authors show that the rule of law is valued much less among respondents supporting populist parties and those who are less educated and more religious.

Read the full article here

This website uses cookies.  More information.