Many scholars of democratization have identified citizen support for democracy as an important determinant of democratic consolidation and deepening. Fewer have explored in depth what everyday citizens actually understand democracy to mean. If mass values shape democratic prospects, what specific notion of “democracy” are the masses inclined to support? This study addresses this question through focus groups conducted with 186 young people in Ecuador, a country that has epitomized challenges of democratic discontent and instability in Latin America. As compared to the dominant survey-based literature, interactive focus group conversations offer a more complex and complete picture of youth democratic perspectives, thus sharpening our analysis of the link between citizen attitudes and democratic performance. Findings have relevance for contemporary debates about “authoritarian drift” in the region, showing youth as strongly invested in democratic freedoms, though highly skeptical of the institutions that allegedly guarantee them. More broadly, the analysis provides a window into how youth conceive of and practice democracy in contexts of unstable democratization.