Strong showings by antireform parties in elections in Russia and other East European nations in the early and mid-1990s raised concerns about the long-term prospects for democracy in the region. Some interpret these votes as expressions of public protest over the costs of economic reform, while others argue that they reflected public skepticism of the liberalism of reformist elites. The authors present evidence from parallel elite/mass surveys conducted in Russia in 1992-93 and 1995 of a considerable gap between elite and mass worldviews. They argue that variation in ideological orientations--both between elite and mass and within the mass public--is largely a function of the postcommunist structure of economic opportunity. Analysis of the survey data provides substantial support for the effects of economic opportunity structure on individual ideological orientation and system preference. Thus, what accounts for the Russian elite's embrace of liberalism and its nonacceptance by portions of the Russian mass public is not simply economic decline but the differential impact of restructuring on long-term material prospects. The findings suggest that students of democratic change should focus more fully on the structural factors that constrain what is politically possible.

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pp. 323-358
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