Why are countries in South Asia experiencing a decline in liberal, despite the region’s rapid economic growth and improved socioeconomic development? In this paper, I seek to explain the puzzle of democratic backsliding in South Asia. Theories of modernization and political culture emphasize that improved socioeconomic development should consolidate democracy, by causing growth in public values conducive to democracy. However, in South Asia, democratic values have stagnated. I propose a theory on the structural conditions which has facilitated democratic backsliding in South Asia. I argue that perceptions of inequality in socioeconomic development and ineffective political institutions weaken citizens’ democratic values. Weak democratic values create the conditions for democratic backsliding, as citizens are more likely to support authoritarian ‘strong’ leaders and populist parties. Such actors are then able to undermine democratic institutions with impunity granted through their popular mandate. I conclude with a discussion of the research design of my dissertation, which includes a comparative study of political development in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, using data from the World Values Survey (1990-2020) and the South Asia Barometer Survey (2005-2013).