American Political Science Review


The Growth of Democratic Legitimacy in Spain

Peter McDonougha1, Samuel H. Barnesa1 and Antonio López Pinaa2

a1 University of Michigan

a2 Universidad Complutense de Madrid


The political transition in Spain provides a rare opportunity to monitor popular attitudes toward alternative regimes. Through the analysis of national surveys conducted in 1978, 1979–80, and 1984, we first establish that the Spanish public distinguishes not only between successive governments—the Franquist and the center-right and socialist governments of the post-Franco period—but also between Francoism and democracy as political systems. Second, we show that during the post-Franco era the criteria of legitimacy have begun to shift from formal political to social democratic values. These analytical results are achieved by comparing standard with less orthodox measures of political legitimacy and performance, and by revising conventional theories of system support. Third, we estimate the determinants of support for and opposition to the two regimes. The Franquist system remains more polarizing than does the democratic system; the constituencies of the democratic regime are considerably broader and more heterogeneous. However, while the new democratic state is comparatively inclusive and autonomous, low rates of political participation and changes in traditional socialist ideology have made the institutional bases of legitimacy ambiguous.

Peter McDonough is Program Director, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48106.

Samuel H. Barnes is Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48106.

Antonio López Pina is Professor in the Facultad de Ciencias Economicas, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid 34, Spain.