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New Article "Ideological extremism, perceived party system polarization, and support for democracy"

New Article "Ideological extremism, perceived party system polarization, and support for democracy"

By Mariano Torcal (RECSM Director, Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and Pedro C. Magalhâes (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon) in European Political Science Review.

 

08.03.2022

 

Abstract

Does ideological polarization undermine or strengthen people’s principled support for democracy? In this study, we suggest that different manifestations of ideological polarization have different implications in this respect. Using data from 11 surveys conducted with representative samples of the adult populations of a group of liberal democratic countries, part of the Comparative National Elections Project, we look at how people’s level of ideological extremism and their perceptions of ideological polarization in their countries’ party systems are related with their support for democracy. We show that citizens who hold more extreme ideological positions are indeed less supportive of democracy and that such a negative relationship is strengthened as citizens’ extremism increases. However, we also show that the citizens who display higher levels of principled support for democracy are those who perceive parties to be neither too distant nor too close to each other in ideological terms. In other words, while a very polarized partisan supply seems to undermine popular commitment with democracy, very low polarization may have similar consequences.

 

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