Tuesday Seminar -7 December

Polarization and the structure of multidimensional party competition in Europe

Jelle Koedam (University of Zurich)
Garret Binding (University of Zurich)
Marco Steenbergen (University of Zurich)

Ideological polarization is a key quality of any democratic system. While pluralism is necessary for electoral competition to function, there is growing concern over the increased division and fragmentation of today’s political landscape. In order to evaluate (trends in) party system polarization, we need a valid and reliable indicator. Yet, despite a wide acceptance of the multidimensionality of contemporary European politics, existing measures of polarization remain unidimensional. To reflect our understanding that party competition is no longer structured by a single left-right divide, this study introduces a novel two-dimensional, variance-based measure of party system polarization. It relies on Chapel Hill Expert Survey (CHES) estimates of party positions to map their distribution along an economic and a cultural dimension. It subsequently computes system-level polarization by accounting for the degree to which the two axes are orthogonal to each other. By offering a tool to evaluate how condensed or dispersed a party system is—both cross-sectionally and temporally—this study has important implications for our understanding of party strategy and democratic representation. 

Contact Semih Çakır if you would like to participate in the seminar.

This content has been updated on 17 December 2021 at 2 h 16 min.