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A robust literature on citizens’ satisfaction with democracy argues that system satisfaction is based on the policy outcomes that citizens anticipate from electoral results. A tacit assumption in this research is that there are differences between the parties and that citizens are aware of the ideological and preference diversity in their political environment. Some citizens, however, fail to perceive these differences. Using a multi-national set of post-election surveys, regression analysis, and propensity score matching, perceived party difference is shown to substantially impact citizens’ systemic satisfaction. Those who believe all parties are the same are substantially less satisfied with the functioning of their democracy. The negative effect of perceived party homogeneity is mitigated by closeness to a political party and sense of representation. By manipulating the public’s reserve of democratic satisfaction, this perception of party homogeneity threatens democratic stability.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Party Politics, volume 28, issue 3, in 2022 following peer review. This article may not exactly replicate the final published version. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at

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