The causes and effects of partisan polarization in European democracies

The causes and effects of partisan polarization in European democracies

Over the past three years, the phenomenon of political polarization has received more attention than ever in the Western world. As the majority of empirical research is still concerned with the polarization of the American electorate, the investigation of the phenomenon is increasingly important also in Europe. Existing results assume that strong polarization is related to weaker democratic and economic performance, but the scholarly knowledge about the emergence of polarization and the causal mechanisms of the process is very limited. Since recent studies showed that Hungary is one of the most polarized European countries, it is a particularly important task of Hungarian political science to carry out further investigations on the causes and impacts of the phenomenon. The aim of the research is to examine systematically both the causes and underlying causal mechanisms of the emergence of deep political dividedness, both the political, social and economic consequences of polarization by analysing comparative international databases. The project primarily uses quantitative methods.

Principal investigator: Veronika Patkós


Patkós, V. (2017b). Politikai polarizáció és gazdasági sikertelenség az európai demokráciákban. Politikatudományi Szemle, 26(4), 29–52. 

The article examines the question whether the political polarization of the electorate predicts weaker economic performance on a sample of 30 European democracies between 2002 and 2013. The regression results show that controlling for a number of important factors, polarization remains a strong and significant predictor of economic downturn.

Patkós, V. (2017a). A pártos polarizáció okai és hatásai az európai demokráciákban (p. 206). Budapest: Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem, doktori disszertáció.

The dissertation investigates the causes and effects of partisan polarization in European countries by using European Social Survey (ESS) data supplemented with country-level data. The main results are that heightened partisan polarization is present in the majority of East-Central European and Southern European countries, and polarization seems a thing to be worried about. Empirical results show that polarization contributes to less democratic political and less successful economic functioning, while it enhances electoral turnout.