In developing countries, perceptions of crime and actual crime victimization have been linked to less public support for democratic regimes. In countries with weak democratic institutions and limited horizontal accountability, populist presidents can exploit this situation by promoting vertical accountability. This vulnerability of democratic institutions arises because some citizens perceive strong-arm rule as a solution to the perceived increase in social violence. This study focuses on the Philippines, where president Rodrigo Duterte was elected in 2016 on a “law and order” platform centered on an extralegal war on drugs. Analyzing data from two waves of the World Values Survey, I find that perceptions of crime significantly influenced Filipino respondents’ support for authoritarian rule and reduced support for democracy based on civil liberties; the effect became more pronounced under the Duterte administration. Notably, actual crime victimization was not statistically correlated with preference for authoritarianism.

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