Trump’s approval rating as a case study in public opinion

Donald Trump’s popularity is really quite stable. For a while, it looked as if he was losing a point or so per month, but that trend has reversed. From the perspective of January 2018, the flatness of the line is striking.

Then again, presidential popularity is usually correlated with economic performance. A strong correlate of approval for an incumbent president is satisfaction with the direction of the country. Since the economy is humming along and satisfaction with the direction of the country is modestly risingone would expect Trump’s popularity to be 7-17 percentage points higher than it is.

To be clear, I don’t think that the economy is producing fair results. But historically, measures like satisfaction and consumer optimism usually correlate with presidential approval. Trump has broken that pattern.

Also, a prevailing model in political science holds that our demographic identities come first. They lead us to affiliate with political parties that seem to represent or encompass those identities. Our attitudes toward politicians are then strongly colored by our partisan affiliations.  But party identification sometimes changes faster than the demographic composition of the country. I’ve created the following graph of party affiliation using Gallup data (moving averages over 7 months). It shows that there’s not been that much change over time–the y-axis goes from 20%-50%–but Republican identification (the red line) has fallen since Trump was elected. First Independents (gray) seemed to gain at the expense of Republicans and Democrats, but lately it’s been Democrats (blue) who have increased their share.

I’d conclude that underlying factors–demographics, economics, and partisanship–do explain most of a president’s support. But they don’t fully explain it, and Donald Trump is demonstrating that you can alienate a lot of people from yourself and your party if you really act like a jerk. This is kind of a perverse finding (doing a very bad job can cause damage), but it’s still evidence that rhetoric and intentional action matter, regardless of what else is happening in the world. It lends support to a theory I have long suspected: agency is often hard to detect because most people who lead major organizations and movements are pretty competent, and their efforts tend to cancel out. Trump is an exception that shows that intentional behavior and competence mattered all along.

If the economy continues to prosper and Trump doesn’t behave even worse, I suspect we will see some improvement in his popularity. The underlying circumstances will count more and more. On the other hand, if the economy hits some bumps, he’s vulnerable. (But that is truly not to be wished for, because too many people will suffer.)

apply for the 2018 Summer Institute of Civic Studies

The eleventh annual Summer Institute of Civic Studies will take place from June 11 to June 21, 2018 at Tufts University. It will be an intensive, two-week, interdisciplinary seminar that brings together faculty, advanced graduate students, and practitioners from many countries and diverse fields of study. Please consider applying or forward to others who may be interested.

The Summer Institute was founded and co-taught from 2009-17 by Peter Levine, Associate Dean of Research at Tisch College, and Karol Soltan, Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. In 2018, it will be taught by Peter Levine with Tufts colleagues. It features guest seminars by distinguished colleagues from various institutions and engages participants in challenging discussions such as:

  • How can people work together to improve the world?
  • How can people reason together about what is right to do?
  • What practices and institutional structures promote these kinds of citizenship?
  • How should empirical evidence, ethics, and strategy relate?

The daily sessions take place on the Tufts campus in Medford, MA. The seminar concludes with a public conference, Frontiers of Democracy, and participants in the Institute are expected to stay for the conference.

A draft syllabus for the 2018 summer institute (subject to change) is here. This is a 16-minute video introduction to Civic Studies. You can read more about the motivation for the Institute in the “Framing Statement” by Harry Boyte, University of Minnesota; Stephen Elkin, University of Maryland; Peter Levine, Tufts; Jane Mansbridge, Harvard; Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University; Karol Soltan, University of Maryland; and Rogers Smith, University of Pennsylvania.

To apply: please email your resume, an electronic copy of your graduate transcript (if applicable), and a cover email about your interests to Peter Levine at  For best consideration, apply no later than March 16, 2018.

You can also sign up here to receive occasional emails about the Summer Institute if you’re interested, but perhaps not for 2018.

European Institute: Applicants from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan are invited to apply to the European Institute of Civic Studies to be held in Herrsching, near Munich, Germany, from July 15 to July 28, 2018. Their costs are covered thanks to a grant from DAAD.


Tuition for the Institute is free, but participants are responsible for their own housing and transportation. One option is a Tufts University dormitory room, which can be rented from $69/night for a single or $85/night for a double. Credit is not automatically offered, but special arrangements for graduate credit may be possible.

The seminar will be followed (from June 21, evening, until June 23) by a public conference–”Frontiers of Democracy 2018″–in downtown Boston. Participants in the institute are expected to stay for the public conference. See information on the conference here.

Why Civil Resistance Works

Here are some working notes on Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press, 2011)

This is their central finding: nonviolent campaigns are nearly twice as likely to win–meaning that they achieve their objectives–as violent campaigns are, and the gap is growing (citing the Kindle edition, locations 315, 337).

This pattern appears to be causal; staying nonviolent increases the odds of success when other factors are held constant. Moreover, countries that have experienced successful nonviolent campaigns are much more likely to achieve “durable and internally peaceful democracies” than those that have experienced violence (351, 1260).

Why would this be? Doesn’t violence help to win many struggles? Didn’t George Washington raise an army to get George III out of the colonies? Chenoweth and Stephan argue:

  1. Nonviolent campaigns are less costly and dangerous to join than violent struggles, so they draw many more people. Although a few participants typically take prominent and perilous roles in a nonviolent campaign, there is also plenty of room for modest acts of support that can preserve the participants’ anonymity and safety (839). Large campaigns sometimes achieve critical mass, when the sheer size of the protests makes it safe to join–and possibly dangerous not to (812). It’s a clear pattern that bigger movements are more likely to win (892). To be sure, some people are drawn by the political potential of violence, the romance of armed struggle, or the sense that being willing to fight confers solidarity and dignity (769, citing Frantz Fanon). But the people drawn to violence tend to be young and male, and a broader base is necessary for victory.
  2. Nonviolent campaigns draw “robust, diverse, and broad-based membership” (351). Diversity is an asset beyond sheer numbers.
    1. When protests are diverse, the authorities can’t “isolate the participants and adopt a repressive strategy short of maximal and indiscriminate repression” (892). In turn, cracking down violently on a broad segment of a population often backfires. Although violent crackdowns do reduce the chance of successful resistance, they also increase the gap in the success rate between nonviolent and violent campaigns (1098, 1421). In other words, if the state is going to attack its citizens, that’s bad news, but the citizens’ smartest move is to remain nonviolent.
    2. Diverse campaigns typically generate a whole range of messages, tactics, and strategies, and that “tactical diversity” allows some options to succeed even if others don’t. In contrast, violent campaigns tend to make irreversible strategic decisions that prove fatal if they fail.
    3. A movement with diverse members is more likely to include people who have personal ties to the security forces, the government, or the business class, so it is more likely to fracture the opposition. Sixty percent of the larger nonviolent campaigns achieve “security force defections (1040). “Fraternization” is an ingredient of many campaigns’ success (1995)
  3. Nonviolent campaigns are much more likely to draw international support (1129).
  4. Authorities have sincere reasons to fear giving up power. Many former rulers have ended their lives before firing squads. Campaigns that are able to maintain the discipline of nonviolence can credibly promise to honor agreements made at the negotiating table, and that increases incumbents’ willingness to yield or share power.

As a matter of definition, we are talking about durable campaigns that have names and goals, not just events, activities, or organizations (426). Nonviolent resistance campaigns employ extra-legal activity (387), not just regular elections or lawsuits. (But sometimes a stolen election is a catalyst for extra-legal protests). They are predominantly and distinctively nonviolent, even though some violence may occur around the margins.

Chenoweth and Stephan contribute to the perennial and basic debate about structure versus agency. A structural theory explains outcomes as a result of big, impersonal forces. For instance, American presidential candidates win if the economic conditions are favorable to them, and not otherwise. It hardly matters what they do or say. An agency theory suggests that it does matter how we choose to act. A structural theory of nonviolent campaigns would attribute their success to factors like fractures in the ruling regime. Chenoweth and Stephan instead “make the case that voluntaristic features of campaigns, notably those related to mechanisms put into place by resistors, are better predictors of success that structural determinants” (1347). As I argue in my Civic Studies video, there are several robust intellectual traditions that not only find agency important in history but also work to enhance agency. Nonviolent resistance is one of those traditions.

As shown on the graph above, many nonviolent resistance campaigns fail. Although they have a surprisingly high success rate, they can still end in tragedy. One challenge is combining unity with diversity. Incorporating many kinds of people in a movement is smart; it clearly increases the odds of success. Yet movements also need unity. It can be hard to convey a coherent message or to negotiate effectively if participants in a movement disagree among themselves.

It’s also easy to overlook–when reading detached cases from distant countries–the sheer emotional difficulty of struggling together within a diverse movement. It sounds like an obviously good thing for the hard-core radicals to join together with police officials who are feeling uneasy about the regime and business interests who see new opportunities. But that’s easier said than done. Even in the relatively tame circumstances of the US in 2018, one can sense deep tensions between people who have been confronting police brutality for decades and people who joined their first protest last January and want to go home safely after the march. Making a movement out of all of them is a spiritual as well as a practical challenge.

I’d interject my SPUD model here. Successful movements must combine unity with plurality, and size with depth, even though those are in tension.

Another challenge is keeping authoritarians from dominating a plural movement. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 began as truly diverse, encompassing religious revolutionaries, secular Marxists, merchants hoping for economic liberalization, civil libertarians, and even a Hippie drug counterculture (2084-2111). To achieve Unity along with all that Pluralism, the movement settled on the Ayatollah Khomeini as a leader, not because they all agreed with his positions but because he seemed uniquely viable (2111). In fact, there wasn’t much discussion in the revolution itself about what Iran should look like after the Shah (2196).  This weakness became critical once the Shah was deposed, the Ayatollah gained power, and he and his allies ruthlessly destroyed all the internal opposition. The question is whether nonviolent social movements can be streams that carry authoritarians into power, and if so, what to do about it.

See also: a sketch of a theory of social movementswhat is a social movement?the kind of sacrifice required in nonviolence; and self-limiting popular politics.

where to invest to RAYSE youth civic engagement

CIRCLE has developed RAYSE (Reaching All Youth Strengthens Engagement) to help nonprofits, philanthropists, agencies, political campaigns, activists, and others decide where to invest in youth engagement or understand the strengths and weaknesses of the places where they are committed to work. It organizes data on all the counties in the US.  This new video explains how to use it and also presents a broad strategy for renewing democracy by investing in youth. Get started by looking up your own county!

new Tisch College summer program for high school students

Tufts Pre-College Intensive Program:
Leadership for Social Change
July 8th-July 20th 2018
Two weeks. Not for credit. Residential.

Join Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life for an exciting, engaging, two-week summer program created for those who are passionate about making a difference in the world and having an impact on local and global issues. With a lens toward advancing equity, inclusion and participation in civic life, the program will equip students with the skills and knowledge to build connections, work collaboratively, and emerge as change agents who can inspire others. The students will also tour several college campuses in the area.

More information here.

how to tell if you’re doing good

If you have the capacity to affect other people, there seem to be three basic ways to decide what to do–and then to assess how much good you’ve done once you’ve acted.

  1. You can talk to the people affected. You can consult your fellow citizens or even convene them to deliberate and decide together. The advantages include sensitivity to a wide range of perspectives and considerations, from justice to practicality; nuance and complexity; and the chance for people to learn and enrich their individual views. Asking people to assess and influence the policy also honors their dignity and agency. On the other hand, actually asking very large numbers of people to deliberate and decide everything is prohibitively difficult and expensive. Consulting samples of people fails to enhance the agency of everyone else. Further, discussions are subject to serious and pervasive flaws, such as cognitive biases, inequalities of power and influence, tyranny of the majority, and vulnerability to manipulation and strategic action.
  2. You can predict and empirically assess the impact of what you do. You can use scientific methods to make predictions and test causal hypotheses. Science incorporates safeguards against biases, such as random sampling and blind review. It’s much more likely than deliberation to predict accurately what will happen if you do something. But it cannot determine whether your methods or your goals are good ones. And it confers power on experts (or employers of expertise) in ways that can be problematic.
  3. You can observe price signals. If milk is selling for more than the price of producing it, then people must want milk, and providing it meets a need. The feedback from prices is immediate; it reflects many people’s knowledge, choices, and agency; it’s hard to manipulate; and it allows comparisons. Since you are responsible for allocating finite resources among all possible purposes, prices give you a common metric. One evident drawback  is inequality. For example, market prices would suggest that there’s weak demand for clean water, even though 2.1 billion people lack access to it. They have too little money to affect prices. However, if you are concerned with justice, you can adjust price signals for equity. For instance, you can give poor people money and let them decide how to spend it, instead of dictating their choices. The other major problem with price signals is that they fail to make moral distinctions. Methamphetamine and antibiotics both have prices. It takes a combination of science (to assess affects) and deliberation (to discuss values) to determine that antibiotics are good while meth is bad.

All sectors of a modern society use all three methods. But I would argue that democratic governments are particularly obliged and well-suited to use deliberation. The fact that every citizen has a vote reflects: 1) the equal right of each person to affect outcomes, and 2) the obligation of every citizen to learn and discuss before making choices. For that reason, governments have formed parliamentary bodies and courts that are supposed to deliberate, they have safeguarded free speech, and they have built ways of consulting publics. Unlike a discretionary decision by a private entity, a government program must be subject to public deliberation because it is the people’s government.

Nonprofit associations and philanthropies use discussion and price-signals. But they are particularly well suited to use “science” (in its broadest form, including ad hoc experimentation and program evaluation). The fact that there are large numbers of modest-sized nonprofits and donors means that each one can try different things and observe the effects without accumulating dangerous amounts of power and influence. When their experiments work, others can pick them up. And unlike for-profit firms, they can ignore price signals in order to pursue goals that they believe in for moral reasons. This is why program evaluation is so common in the non-profit sector, whereas major governmental decisions–even massive tax cuts or wars–are hardly ever subject to formal evaluation.

Companies, obviously, use price-signals. If Toyota can’t sell enough Corollas at a profit, it will realize it must change its business. If it observes that Subaru is more profitable, it will consider copying Subaru. However, it’s worth noting that prices offer insufficient guidance even for profit-maximizing firms. Again, assume that Toyota suddenly cannot sell enough Corollas. It must find out why not, and that will probably require some combination of asking people what they value and studying causes and effects–the same techniques used by democratic governments and philanthropies.

Among people committed to democracy and/or philanthropy, prices provoke unease. When something previously offered free is charged for, critics will complain of “neoliberalism” and “marketization” or “commodification.” But if that good was scarce and provided to some group without a charge, then someone must have decided to allocate resources for that purpose and to that group (instead of to something and someone else). Those who make such decisions are morally responsible for exercising their power well. They should strive to determine whether their choices benefit the world. Consultation and science are two means for that purpose, but both have limitations. Prices are also very useful for determining demand and for making comparisons. Not only should responsible people notice prices, but they should worry about whether their actions (through governments and philanthropies) are distorting price signals in ways the deprive them of useful information about other people’s needs. For instance, if you offer free tuition, you can no longer tell whether schooling is what people want.

On the other hand, prices certainly do not offer all the necessary and relevant information, even for people and firms that want to make a profit–and still less for people who pursue justice.

2018 European Summer Institute of Civic Studies

Call for Applications

We are happy to invite you to participate in the European Summer Institute of Civic Studies that will take place in Herrsching near Munich, Germany, from July 15th to July 28th 2018. The Summer Institute of Civic Studies is organized by a team from the University of Maryland (Prof. Karol Soltan) and the Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt/University of Augsburg (Prof. Tetyana Kloubert) with Tufts University’s Prof. Peter Levine, who will join for two days.

The total number of participants will be limited to 20. We will consider applications from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. [Revised list, 1/15/18] We are especially interested in applicants who have a long-term interest in developing the civic potential of the region. If you are from elsewhere in the world, the Tisch College Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tufts is a better fit.

Objectives and topics

The Summer Institute of Civic Studies is an intensive, two-week, interdisciplinary seminar bringing together advanced graduate students, faculty, and practitioners from diverse fields of study. It is part of an effort to build a new inter-disciplinary field of civic studies, aiming to develop ideas helpful to citizens. The notions of civic ideals, civic competence, civic society, and civic culture all capture in various ways the perspective of this emerging field.

Summer Institutes of Civic Studies have been annually organized by Peter Levine and Karol Soltan at Tufts University since 2009. The Tufts Summer Institutes has been organized around the theme of the interaction of theory and practice. They have aimed above all to establish civic studies as a theoretically serious field.

The European Summer Institute incorporates in addition distinctly European topics, such as the European Union. But within the European Summer Institute, with its roots in Eastern and Central Europe, we have also introduced a deeper second theme. We aim to develop the civic perspective in the shadow of past totalitarianism and its horrors. We look at modernity as a venue of civic work, with special attention to the fact that modernity also produced Lenin, Stalin and Hitler.

Civic Studies draws on examples from the practices of multiple civic society initiatives. Often the key question is strategic: What was practically possible and under what circumstances? For this purpose, examples from different international contexts are helpful, as they illuminate the possibilities and limitations of the establishment of civic perspectives. We seek to identify country-specific civic society projects, to search for a link between science and practice in the regional and international context and to promote intercultural encounters and intercultural learning.

The Summer Institute of Civic Studies deals with issues of development of civil society, the role of an individual/citizen in society, the role of education and the role of institutions in supporting, promoting and deepening democracy, and questions related to the ethical foundation of civic issues in a (democratic) society. These topics will be examined in international and comparative perspectives, considering European (especially German) and US-American civic traditions. International examples will be discussed in the context of consolidation of democracy in Eastern Europe, and in the context of the recent challenges of populism.

The Summer Institute of Civic Studies engages participants in challenging discussions such as:

  • What kinds of citizens (if any) do good regimes need?
  • What should such citizens know, believe, and do?
  • Should we reformulate the project of democracy in response to the challenge of populism, and if so, how?
  • What ought to be the relationships among empirical evidence, ethics, and strategy?

How to apply

All application materials must be submitted in English. The application must include the following:

  • A cover letter telling us why you want to participate in the summer institute and what you would contribute (maximum 2 pages)
  • A curriculum vitae

All application material can be sent as an email attachment in DOC or PDF format to

Decisions will be announced in April 2018.

The working language of the Summer Institute will be English. Your mastery of the English language must be sufficient to read and understand complex texts from multiple disciplines, and to take part in a lively discussion.


For best consideration apply by March 1, 2018.


The Summer Institute of Civic Studies is being funded by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). All participants will be paid for their travel costs, accommodations, meals and full event access.


For more information about the Summer Institute of Civic Studies please contact

We encourage you to share this message with your networks of people who might be interested by the Summer Institute of Civic Studies.

Tisch College / Sociology Postdoc in Civic Studies

Tufts University Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life & School of Arts & Sciences (Sociology) Postdoctoral Fellowship in Civic Studies

Tufts University’s Department of Sociology and the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life will award a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Civic Studies for the 2018-19 academic year to a scholar with a Ph.D. in Sociology who is not yet tenured. The Fellowship will begin July 1, 2018. We seek a sociologist whose research bears on civic engagement, broadly defined. Possible research topics include, but are not limited to, civil society, grassroots engagement, forms of citizenship, non-profits, social movements, democratic participation, and public sociology.

The Fellow will be expected to teach one academic course per semester in the Department of Sociology at the undergraduate level on topics related to civic life, in addition to conducting their research. In addition, the Fellow will be expected to deliver a public lecture at Tufts on the topic of their research, to contribute to the intellectual life of the university, and to participate in initiatives on campus concerning civic engagement as relevant. The Fellow will be housed in the Department of Sociology at Tufts University.

Scholar with a Ph.D. in the field of Sociology who is not yet tenured.

All applications must be submitted via Interfolio at: Applications should include: (1) a cover letter which includes a description of your research goals during the fellowship year and the courses you would like to offer; (2) your CV; (3) one writing sample; (4) three letters of recommendation which should be uploaded by your recommenders to Interfolio directly; and (5) teaching course evaluations, if available.

Review of applications will begin February 1, 2018 and will continue until the position is filled.

Questions about the position should be addressed to Tisch College Associate Dean of Research Peter Levine at

republican values in Uganda

Twice in 2017 (for family reasons), we visited Uganda with stops in Dubai. I posted a longer reflection on the two societies last February and would stand by those observations after a second visit. Having just returned, I would like to emphasize a point about Uganda’s being a genuine republic–and what that word means.

Uganda’s parliament recently voted to amend the constitution so that President Yoweri Museveni can run for a sixth term (while extending MPs’ terms from five to seven years). These are probably bad decisions–not that anyone would ask my opinion–but the debate reflects Uganda’s genuine republicanism.

Here I follow Philip Pettit in understanding a republic as a system without arbitrary command. In a republic, no citizen can tell another citizen “Because I said so.” To make a society a republic, neither equality nor freedom (in the sense of private choice) must necessarily be maximized. Instead, domination–anyone’s ability to dictate what others do–must be minimized. This ideal can be accomplished by a combination of rule of law, democratically accountable institutions, certain kinds of actual equality, and a civic culture in which dominating behavior is shunned and the respectful exchange of reasons is prized.

Note that this ideal has deep African roots. In exploring the value of consensus in traditional African societies, Kwasi Wiredu emphasizes that it doesn’t mean agreement. “It suffices that all parties are able to feel that adequate account has been taken of their points of view in any proposed scheme of future action or coexistence.” In a republic, some win and some lose–and some may even lose quite consistently–but everyone’s opinions are owed consideration and a response.

Uganda ranks 125th in the world in economic equality. It is also deeply poor, which means that everyone except the elite is very badly off. The UNDP estimates that “70.3 percent of the population …. are multidimensionally poor while an additional 20.6 percent live near multidimensional poverty.” This means that very few Ugandans have cooking fuel, toilets, water or electricity that comes near their homes, a floor, any accumulated assets, or any support for their children’s education. (The government spends $2.12 per student per year on education.)

The effects of deep poverty on both political voice and actual freedom cannot be overstated. You’re not free (in most senses of the word) if your survival depends on constant physical labor, good luck, and fair treatment by those who have more than you. Meanwhile, Uganda has a problematic democracy, dominated by the majority NRM party and its president and afflicted by corruption. These are real challenges, and being a republic doesn’t compensate for them.

Yet Uganda is a republic. The constitution guarantees right to citizens. The overwhelmingly powerful NRM can amend the constitution in its own interest but still feels compelled to offer citizens reasons for its actions. Courts still review the process. Citizens still respond with very active criticism. The press is full of passionate, concerned, critical voices. There’s huge turnout at MPs’ public meetings in their constituencies. Although preserving abstract, procedural rights would seem remote on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs–a luxury or “First World Problem”–Ugandans take changes to their constitution personally.

In turn, powerful Ugandans address their fellow countrypeople as citizens. That word is common in the pronouncements of politicians, clergy, and experts. Even President Museveni feels compelled (or moved?) to address his people as citizens. While we were there, he wrote a column in New Vision, one of the newspapers that struck me as more friendly to his government. It is a somewhat digressive piece, rather like an impromptu speech after a meal, that begins with his retelling a local folk tale. He writes, “I want to inform the reader that when I read the Nyabihoko story, I was reminded of what I normally observe from the helicopter the People of Uganda provided me as President for quick travel.” He then begins to discuss various waterways in the country. But notice that he feels the need to justify his helicopter and to thank The People for it. He doesn’t have a right to a helicopter because he is the president; he needs it and feels obliged to explain why he uses one.

Uganda’s republicanism is especially notable in contrast to Dubai, where human development is dramatically higher and most people enjoy considerable actual freedom in the form of an ability to choose what to do. Moreover, the dominant cultural style is that of mass consumer capitalism, which involves treating the customer or client respectfully and not saying, “Because I said so.” A visitor with cash–a mizungu, in East African parlance–could more easily dominate people in Uganda than in Dubai, because Ugandans very badly need a customer or a tip, whereas a shopkeeper in Dubai can wait for the next person on line. Still, underlying the whole system in Dubai is “domination” in Pettit’s sense: the Ruler can decide which freedoms to permit and owes no justification.

What to make of a combination of republican norms, deep poverty, and one-party dominance? One view would be this is not really a republic. Too many Ugandans are too economically vulnerable to be able to escape everyday domination, and the NRM has too many seats (293 out of 426) for its political power to be constrained. I’d be inclined to say, instead, that Uganda faces deep economic and political challenges but still has a genuine republic, and that is an achievement for which Ugandans deserve full credit.

See also: do we live in a republic or a democracy? avoiding arbitrary command and Dubai, Uganda, and today’s global political economy.