Alexis de Tocqueville Award

In line with the theme of the Toronto conference Public Opinion and Democracy, WAPOR is pleased to announce a special award related to Alexis de Tocqueville’s well-known book “On Democracy in America” published in 1835. While Tocqueville’s writings were based on his observations in the United States, he implicitly and explicitly compared government models, countries, and social systems. In view of the continued relevance of Tocqueville’s observations on democracy, a special session will be dedicated to papers referring to his work and its relevance for today’s situation in the world, whether in the U.S. itself or elsewhere, particularly in emerging democracies.

Tocqueville, a French aristocrat, visited the United States in the 1830s in order to understand the emergence of a new model of government, i.e., democracy. Tocqueville’s concerns about democracy were embedded in theories about how numerous forces (e.g., religion, civic associations, newspapers and journalistic freedom) could counteract the rise of despotism. In his writings, he was particularly concerned that democracy could become a dictatorship of public opinion. He further asked: What is the place of “elites” and experts in a system where everyone is equal? He also questioned how minorities would be protected if the only criteria for decision were the opinion of the majority.

This session dedicated to Tocqueville’s work will take place during the joint AAPOR-WAPOR sessions. A committee will be set up to select the best papers for the session and the Award for the best paper overall.