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A substantial literature on public democratic satisfaction argues that system satisfaction is based on how the election transpires and the policy outcomes citizens anticipate from the electoral results. In a functioning democracy, citizens elect a government in fair elections and the election outcomes reflect the electorate’s views. Winners of both national and regional elections are regularly found to be more satisfied with their democracy than losers. This study shows that the perceived fairness and representativeness of the electoral results moderate this disparity by narrowing the satisfaction gap between electoral winners and electoral losers; this effect is concentrated in the evaluation of national elections. While respondents are more satisfied with their national and regional democracies when they run free and fair elections, perceived electoral fairness and outcome representativeness only moderate electoral outcomes’ effects at the national level. By manipulating the public’s reserve of democratic satisfaction, public perception of the elections’ fairness and responsiveness can undermine or support democratic opinion.


This is an Accepted Manuscript version of an article accepted for publication in Representation in 2024.

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Taylor & Francis

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

Available for download on Friday, August 15, 2025