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Project: Decreased ideological polarization and conflict in Western Europe? (DIPAC)

In this project, we are studying whether the dominant thesis on decreased ideological polarization – that the political parties are becoming increasingly alike – is actually true. We also look at whether party politics are mainly initiated by the parties or whether the parties are adjusting to voter demand.

By taking a broad approach and combining theories that are otherwise usually tested separately, we can open entirely new ways of explaining the condition and evolution of representative democracy in Western Europe.

The project is a collaboration among researchers at Linnaeus University, University of Gothenburg, and Mid Sweden University.

About the project

Democracy in crisis

Political science research claims that representative democracy in Western Europe has been in crisis for thirty years – which should reasonably be described as a permanent crisis. The implications of the crisis are that the link between political parties and citizens has been broken, that the political substance of the dominant parties is becoming increasingly similar, and that party systems are being fragmented along new cleavages where right-wing populist, anti-immigration parties are being set against their opposites, such as green parties.

The thesis on decreased ideological polarization is, however, considerably older than the notion of a permanent crisis of democracy. Similar ideas have been presented repeatedly and have held sway since the 1950s.

Earlier research provides weak support for the idea that parties have become increasingly similar

Even though the thesis on declining ideological polarization has enjoyed a dominant position for a long time, we contend that the theoretical underpinnings are weak and that the empirical evidence is scant.

The aim of the project is to fill these knowledge gaps by using unique data and new theoretical approaches to describe and explain the parties’ ideological and policy evolution since the 1970s and compare these developments among Western European countries.



For request of data, contact project leader Magnus Hagevi.