Legacies of an authoritarian past still leave enduring effects on voters' political attitudes and behavior. I argue that authoritarian nostalgia is a defining factor in voter attitudes and related behavior in post-authoritarian democracies. Voters who share core values from the authoritarian past construct heightened social identity toward the past, which breeds strong attachment to authoritarian legacy parties. I test this argument with a novel measure for authoritarian nostalgia. With original data collected from South Korea and Taiwan, I provide evidence that people high in authoritarian nostalgia are more likely to identify with and feel attached to authoritarian legacy parties in order to strengthen their social identity, and this finding is consistent across different age cohorts. Using a candidate comparison analysis, I further demonstrate that voters high in authoritarian nostalgia are more attracted to candidates evoking nostalgia over those with high programmatic or ideological proximity. The combined results show how sentiment for the former regime is a central determinant of political behavior in maturing democracies.
Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests focus on authoritarian nostalgia and related political behavior in post-authoritarian democracies, especially East Asian countries. His dissertation is supported by various sources, including the 2020 Taiwan Fellowship from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan and the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange.