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Unity in diversity? Polarization, issue diversity and satisfaction with democracy

Hoerner, Julian and Hobolt, Sara (2019) Unity in diversity? Polarization, issue diversity and satisfaction with democracy. Journal of European Public Policy. ISSN 1350-1763 (In Press)

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How do the range of issues voters care about and party system polarization impact democratic outcomes? Recent debates have focused on the negative effect of polarized systems on democratic quality. However, the extent towhich this polarization is channeled or diffused over a wide range of issues on the public agenda has not been analyzed systematically. Using data from 31 European countries from 2003-2018, we show that party polarization indeed has a negative effect on people’s satisfaction with democracy. Importantly, however, we demonstrate that at high levels of issue diversity, measured as the distribution of responses to the ’Most Important Issue’ item, the negative effect of polarization is minimized. Drawing on the deliberative democracy literature, we argue that at low levels of issue diversity, polarization makes compromise in society less likely and the political discourse more antagonistic. However, at higher levels of issue diversity, contestation and conflict can be diffused over a large range of issues, providing more favourable conditions for collective will formation and, ultimately, higher levels of satisfaction with democracy.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 The Authors
Divisions: European Institute
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2019 11:36
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2019 23:20

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