Institutional design and polarisation. Do consensus democracies fare better in fighting polarisation than majoritarian democracies?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

It is often claimed that we are living in an age of increasing polarization. Political views, opinions, and worldviews become increasingly irreconcilable (idea-based polarization), while at the same time society appears to be getting fractured in antagonistic, opposing camps (identity-based polarization). However, a closer look at international datasets reveals that these forms of polarization do not affect all democracies to the same extent. Levels of identity-based and idea-based polarization strongly vary across countries. The question then becomes what can explain these diverging levels of polarization. In this paper, we hypothesize that the institutional design of a country impacts polarization, and that consensus democracies would display lower levels of polarization. Based on a quantitative analysis of the Comparative Political Dataset and Varieties of Democracy data in 36 countries over time (2000–2019), our results show that institutions did matter to a great extent, and in the hypothesized direction. Countries with consensus institutions, and more in particular PR electoral systems, multiparty coalitions, and federalism did exhibit lower levels of both issue-based and identity-based polarization, thereby confirming our expectations. Moreover, we found that consensus democracies tend to be better at coping with identity-based polarization, while the effect on idea-based polarization is smaller.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-172
Number of pages20
JournalDemocratization
Volume30
Issue number2
Early online date30 Sep 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Research Foundation–Flanders (FWO Vlaanderen) under [grant numbers G0G7620N and 1113322N]; ERA-NET NORFACE under Grant UNDPOLAR; and EUTOPIA Institutional Partnership under [grant number EUTOPIA-PhD-2021-0000000058]. The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers, Jérémy Dodeigne, Anna Kern and the participants of the 2021 “Belgium - The State of the Federation” Conference for their valuable feedback on a previous version of this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Copyright:
Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Institutional design and polarisation. Do consensus democracies fare better in fighting polarisation than majoritarian democracies?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this