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Multiple studies have identified a significant gap between electoral winners’ satisfaction with the functioning of their democracy and electoral losers’ satisfaction. This disparity is attributed to the diverging policies the parties would enact. For this to be true, citizens must perceive true differences among the parties. Using thirty-one post-election surveys from twenty-five countries, this study finds that the win-loss satisfaction gap is conditioned by the perceived differences among the political parties in the democracy. The effect of winning or losing on citizens’ satisfaction is significantly larger when citizens identify greater differences among the parties. This effect is driven by the difference in impact among citizens perceiving major differences among the parties. The differential effect underscores the importance of understanding citizens’ perceptions of the parties in their democracy and contributes to researchers’ knowledge of influences on democratic attitudes at a time when scholars are concerned about democratic decline.


This is an Accepted Manuscript version of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties in 2023. It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Taylor & Francis

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Available for download on Sunday, September 15, 2024