Countries in the third wave of democratization have introduced competitive elections before establishing basic institutions of a modern state such as the rule of law, institutions of civil society and the accountability of governors. By contrast, countries in the first wave of democratization became modern states before universal suffrage was introduced. Because they have democratized backwards, most third-wave countries are currently incomplete democracies. Incomplete democracies can develop in three different ways: completing democratization; repudiating free elections and turning to an undemocratic alternative; or falling into a low-level equilibrium trap in which the inadequacies of elites are matched by low popular demands and expectations. The significance of incomplete democratization is shown by analysing public opinion survey data from three new democracies varying in their predecessor regimes: the Russian Federation (a totalitarian past); the Czech Republic (both a democratic and a totalitarian past) and the Republic of Korea (formerly an authoritarian military regime).