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By comparing results based on expert and popular surveys, this article finds that popular support for democracy was dwindling even in the decade before expert surveys (such as Freedom in the World and V-Dem) began to show the reality of democratic retreat. Decreasing support for democracy is tied to low satisfaction with how democracy works in practice, and it contributes to the rise of populist leaders who concentrate power in the executive branch. These phenomena reflect the waning capacity of the state to improve governance across all countries. As a result, democracy is likely to face another lackluster decade if both structural and institutional problems are left unsolved.