Affective polarization in multiparty systems

9. Mai 2019, 13:00 Uhr

Mannheim, B2,8 (rechts)

Prof. Markus Wagner


Affective polarization has been gaining importance as a concept in political behaviour, but little effort has so far been undertaken to apply it broadly to multi-party settings. In this paper, I introduce a measure of affective  polarization in multi-party systems based on the spread of like-dislike scores. Two ways of measuring affective polarization in multiparty systems are possible: one that posits the existence of one in-group and one that allows for in-group affect towards several parties. I argue that the latter approach is more suitable to understanding dynamics of partisan identities in multiparty settings because citizens in such systems often identify with ideologies and /or broader political camps rather than with single parties. Using data for 41 countries and 124 elections from four modules of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, I then consider how affective polarization is associated with key established measures in multiparty systems. First, I show that affective polarization is positively related to positive and negative partisanship and to perceived ideological polarization, but that affective polarization captures more than those measures. Next, I turn to possible effects of affective polarization. Regression results indicate that affective polarization is more closely linked to turnout and political participation than perceived ideological polarization. Moreover, whereas affective polarization decreases satisfaction with democracy, perceived ideological polarization increases it. Overall, affective polarization is a concept and measure distinct from mere partisanship and from perceived ideological polarization and helps us to understand political identities and behaviour in multiparty settings. Studying affective polarization outside the US could have important consequences for our understanding of citizen perceptions of politics and citizen behaviour.

About the Speaker

Prof. Markus Wagner (PhD, LSE) is Full Professor for Quantitative Party and Election Research at the Department of Government, University of Wien. Markus’ main research interests are in the role of issues and ideologies in party competition and vote choice. He also carries out research on the electoral connection between voters and their parliamentary representatives. He is a member of the CSES Planning Committee and is also associated with the Austrian National Election Study.