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.
The project aims to answer the following two questions:
- To what extent are the ideas and policies of political parties converging or diverging in Western European party systems?
- Are changes in the parties’ ideas and policies initiated mainly by the parties, or are they adjusting to voter demand arising from social changes?
The project aims to further develop existing theories to answer the questions. We will accomplish this, first, by conceptually differentiating between ideological polarization and partisan conflict and then, unlike earlier research, studying the relationship between these phenomena. Secondly, we intend to also test theories on political supply and demand to provide more complete explanations of changes in Western European party systems.
Proceeding from there, the project presents four unique hypotheses, which all stipulate shifting relationships between supply and demand and between ideological polarization and partisan conflict. By combining several theories that are otherwise usually tested separately, we open our hypotheses to four possible and theoretically innovative explanations of the fate of representative democracy in Western Europe.
To test the hypotheses, the project is breaking new ground by collecting material from nine Western European countries in four sub-studies.
Four unique sub-studies
Qualitative methods to study ideological polarization and conflict in election manifestos
We are diverging from earlier research by using novel, mainly qualitative, methods to study the degree of ideological polarization and political conflict in election manifestos.
Comparison between statements of government policy and actual policy
We are studying the degree of ideological polarization when statements of government policy are compared to actual government policy over time.
Unique data on political conflict
We are producing new data on political conflict in the nine party systems by systematically compiling information about votes in national parliaments.
The role of voter demand
We will be studying our new results on ideological and policy change from the three first sub-studies in relation to the voter level – the demand side – by using voter data from all nine political systems.
To carry out the sub-studies, the collection of material is being limited to one occasion in the mid-1970s, mid-1980s and mid-1990s and two occasions in the 2000s.
We believe the project is of high intradisciplinary and extradisciplinary significance. Where earlier research tends to presume, rather than systematically study, that the parties have become more alike, the project is producing new material to study the question in depth.
We are also breaking new theoretical ground by, as opposed to earlier research, testing hypotheses that explicitly focus on possible relationships between the party supply and voter demand. The project questions are also closely linked to future social development.
By testing theoretically innovative hypotheses against unique data, we believe the project has good prospects of providing a more accurate diagnosis of the vitality of representative democracy in Western Europe than has been given in research and public debate thus far.
- Loxbo, K., Hinnfors, J., Hagevi, M., Blombäck, S. & Demker, M. (2019). ’The decline of Western European social democracy: Exploring the transformed link between welfare state generosity and the electoral strength of social democratic parties, 1975–2014.´, Party Politics (published online).
- Hagevi, M., red. (2015). Partier och partisystem. Lund: Studentlitteratur.
- Hagevi, M. (2015). ’Partier och partisystem’ i Partier och partisystem. Lund: Studentlitteratur, s. 13-19.
- Demker, M. (2015). ’Sociala skiljelinjer och partisystem’ i Partier och partisystem. Lund: Studentlitteratur, s. 21-32.
- Hinnfors, J. (2015). ’Partisystem – räkneövning eller systemanalys?’ i Partier och partisystem. Lund: Studentlitteratur, s. 33-47.
- Hagevi, M. (2015). ’Partiernas finansiering’ i Partier och partisystem. Lund: Studentlitteratur, s. 77-90.
- Loxbo, K. (2015). ’Utmaningen från radikala högerpopulistpartier’ i Partier och partisystem. Lund: Studentlitteratur, s. 133-147.
- Hagevi, M. (2015). ’Partiernas funktioner, föränderliga förmåga och förträfflighet’ i Partier och partisystem. Lund: Studentlitteratur, s. 223-229.
- Hagevi, M., Loxbo, K., Blombäck, S., Demker, M. & Hinnfors, J. (2018) ”Fragmentation and Ideological Stretch within European Party Systems in Established Democracies: A First Draft.” Paper presented at the Swedish Political Science Association (SWEPSA) Annual Meeting: Work Shop of Political Behaviour and Parties (SWEPOP), Hamburg, Germany, October 22-25, 2018.
- Loxbo, K., Hinnfors, J., Blombäck, S., Demker, M. & Hagevi, M. (2018) ”Welfare States and Social Democratic Electoral Fates”, Paper presented at Higher Seminar and Guest Lecture Series, Political Science, Mid-University, Sundsvall, October 2, 2018, and Higher General Seminar, Linnaeus University, October 10, 2018.
- Demker, M., Blombäck, S., Hagevi, M., Hinnfors, J., & Loxbo, K. (2018) ”European Government Declarations Since 1970: A Significant Turn to the Right; But How About New Ideological Dimensions?” Paper presented at Project Meeting of Decreased Ideological Polarization and Conflict? (DIPAC), October 31 – November 1, 2018.
- Hagevi, M., Blombäck, S., Loxbo, K., Demker, M. & Hinnfors, J. (2018) "Changed Policy Congruence Between Political Parties and Voters? A Comparative Study of Seven Party Systems in Western Europe." Paper presented at the ECPR General Conference, Hamburg, Germany, August 22-25, 2018.
- Blombäck, S., Demker, M., Hagevi, M., Hinnfors, J. & Loxbo, K. (2018) "Party Based Conflict in Parliaments in Western Europe." Paper presented at the ECPR General Conference, Hamburg, Germany, August 22-25, 2018.
- Blombäck, S. , Demker, M. , Hagevi, M. , Hinnfors, J. & Loxbo, K. (2017). "Party based conflict in national parliaments." Paper presented at the The XVIII Nordic Political Science Congress, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark, August 8-11, 2017.
For request of data, contact project leader Magnus Hagevi.
- Blombäck, S., Demker, M., Hagevi, M Hinnfors, J., & Loxbo, K. (2019). DIPAC Government Declaration Data: Technical Report 1.0. Växjö: Linnaeus University.
- Hagevi, M., Blombäck, S., Hinnfors, J., Demker, M. & Loxbo, K. (2019). DIPAC CITIZEN DATA: Technical report 1.0. Växjö: Linnaeus University.
- Blombäck, S., Hinnfors, J., Loxbo, K., Demker, M. & Hagevi, M. (2019). DIPAC Election Manifesto Data: Technical report 1.0. Växjö: Linnaeus University.
- Loxbo, K., Blombäck, S., Hinnfors, J., Demker, M. & Hagevi, M. (2019). Reliability testing of coded election manifesto data in the DIPAC-project. Växjö: Linnaeus University.