The article presents the results of the study based on the data of the 2012 European Social Survey. The author analyzed the correlation between the population’s attitude towards democracy and the assessment of the importance of its individual aspects (“understanding” of democracy). The analysis was carried out on data from Russia and groups of European countries (Northern Europe, Western Europe, Southern Europe, and the post-socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe). The average resident of all European countries would like to live in a democracy; Nordic countries most strongly wanted to live in a democracy, whilst those who least strongly wished to came from postsocialist countries, especially Russia. Despite a number of similarities between groups of European countries, one can see significant differences between groups of countries in Western and Northern Europe and the group of post-socialist countries and Russia. Russians and the population of the group of post-socialist countries have a lesser attitude towards democracy in their understanding of the importance of its individual characteristics (correlation coefficients with each of the signs of democracy are lower than in other groups of countries). Most signs of democracy are equally important components in the perceptions of the population of Russia and post-socialist countries, while in other groups of countries these views are more differentiated. The study draws attention to the lack of validity of questions about the general attitude towards democracy, used in many international and national polls. It is associated with differences in the understanding of this concept by supporters of democracy in different groups of countries.