American political observers express increasing concern about affective polarization, i.e., partisans' resentment toward political opponents. We advance debates about America's partisan divisions by comparing affective polarization in the US over the past 25 years with affective polarization in 19 other western publics. We conclude that American affective polarization is not extreme in comparative perspective, although Americans' dislike of partisan opponents has increased more rapidly since the mid-1990s than in most other Western publics. We then show that affective polarization is more intense when unemployment and inequality are high; when political elites clash over cultural issues such as immigration and national identity; and in countries with majoritarian electoral institutions. Our findings situate American partisan resentment and hostility in comparative perspective, and illuminate correlates of affective polarization that are difficult to detect when examining the American case in isolation.
Mainstream parties in Western Europe are increasingly struggling to hold together their base of support. As a lens for exploring this changing electoral landscape, this article focuses on the growing share of the electorate that is cross-pressured between conservative and progressive attitudes on economic and cultural issues. It argues that a stable asymmetry characterizes Western European mass attitudes: while support for the left is common among voters with progressive attitudes on both issues, it is enough to be conservative on one issue to turn right. Analyzing survey data collected from 1990 to 2017, the study shows that cross-pressures are resolved in favor of the right and examines the trade-offs this poses to center-right parties. These findings contribute to debates on electoral dealignment and realignment and shed light on the electoral choices of the center-right.
We argue that support for parties of the radical right and left can usefully be understood as a problem of social integration—an approach that brings together economic and cultural explanations for populism. With comparative survey data, we assess whether support for parties of the radical right and left is associated with feelings of social marginalization. We find that people who feel more socially marginal—because they lack strong attachment to the normative order, social engagement, or a sense of social respect—are more likely to be alienated from mainstream politics and to support radical parties. We also find an association between indicators for recent economic and cultural developments often said to affect social status and feelings of social marginalization, especially among people with low incomes or educational attainment. We conclude that problems of social integration and subjective social status deserve more attention from scholars of comparative political behavior.
This review proposes a comparative research agenda on center-right parties in advanced democracies, bringing together research in American and comparative politics. Political scientists have recently closely examined the decline of the center-left and the rise of the radical right but have paid less attention to the weakening of center-right parties. Yet cohesive center-right parties have facilitated political stability and compromises, while their disintegration has empowered radical challengers. After presenting an overview of right-wing politics in Western democracies and weighing different definitions of the electoral right, we discuss two factors that shape variations in center-right cohesion: organizational robustness of center-right partisan institutions and the (un)bundling of conservative mass attitudes on different policy dimensions. Last, we argue that a full account of the rise of the radical right cannot focus solely on the strategies of the center-left but must incorporate also the choices, opportunities, and constraints of center-right parties.
Political developments since the 2008 financial crisis have sparked renewed interest in the electoral implications of economic downturns. Research describes a correlation between adverse economic conditions and support for radical parties campaigning on the populist promise to retake the country from a corrupt elite. But does the success of radical parties following economic crises rely on people who are directly affected? To answer this question, we examine whether individual-level changes in economic circumstances drive support for radical parties across the ideological divide. Analysing eight waves of panel data collected in the Netherlands, before, during, and after the Great Recession (2007–2015), we demonstrate that people who experienced an income loss became more supportive of the radical left but not of the radical right. Looking at these parties’ core concerns, we find that income loss increased support for income redistribution championed by the radical left, but less so for the anti-immigration policies championed by the radical right. Our study establishes more directly than extant research the micro-foundations of support for radical parties across the ideological divide.
Western societies have experienced ethnic and religious diversification in recent decades. These demographic changes have been met by efforts to defend the local dominant culture using majority nationalism laws, intended to protect the cultural heritage of the majority. We empirically examine majority nationalism laws’ expressive effects on patterns of minority discrimination using the Israeli draft Nation Law (NL) as a case study. Drawing on two experimental surveys of a representative sample of the majority population of Israel (N = 602), our results lend weak support to the hypothesis that majority nationalism laws increase bias against minorities, and modest support to the hypothesis that such laws generate unintended spillover effects across different minority groups and from the public to the private sphere. Our main finding is that majority nationalism laws provoke a backlash reaction from those who oppose them. We define this as the provocative effect of law and discuss its relation to the expressive law theory. The results suggest that the effects of majority nationalism laws may vary systematically across ideological groups and spheres of discrimination.
It is well-established that in diverse societies, certain groups prefer to exclude other groups from power and often from society entirely. Yet as many Western societies are diversifying at an increasingly rapid pace, the need for cross-group cooperation to solve collective action problems has intensified. Do preferences for exclusion inhibit the ability for individuals to cooperate and, therefore, diminish the ability for societies to collectively provide public goods? Some scholarship suggests this may not be the case, since preferences are often not diagnostic of behavior. Turning to Israel, a society with multiple overlapping and politically salient cleavages, we use a large-scale lab-in-the-field design to investigate how much preferences for exclusion among the Jewish majority predict discriminatory behavior toward the Arab minority. We establish that such preferences appear to be symbolic attitudes, are held especially strongly by low-status members of the majority group, and are strongly predictive of costly non-cooperation. This preferences-behaviors relationship appears unaffected by mitigating factors proposed in the intergroup relations literature such as outgroup stereotypes and repeated interactions. The influence of symbolic attitudes on directly observed behavior, which has not been empirically demonstrated before, calls for a closer examination of the social roots of exclusionary preferences.
What role has the US Supreme Court played in the liberalization of the American economy over the last three decades? By examining more than 800 cases of judicial review on issues related to economic policy-making between 1946 and 2012, we show that the Court participated in the post-1980s shift to the market economy through disciplining non-complying governmental actors that refused to fall in line with the liberalization agenda. We term this process ‘institutional gardening’: the Court allowing some policies to flourish while weeding out others, gradually nudging governmental actors toward a particular political vision. This is a cumulative process, involving many routine Court decisions rather than a few landmark cases. We find that the frequency with which businesses are able to bring their cases before the Court, typically under the conditions of low media attention, drives the push toward economic liberalization.
This paper explores the factors that have recently increased support for candidates and causes of the populist right across the developed democracies, especially among a core group of working class men. In the context of debates about whether the key causal factors are economic or cultural, we contend that an effective analysis must rest on understanding how economic and cultural developments interact to generate support for populism. We suggest that one way to do so is to see status anxiety as a proximate factor inducing support for populism, and economic and cultural developments as factors that combine to precipitate such anxiety. Using cross-national survey data from twenty developed democracies, we assess the viability of this approach. We show that lower levels of subjective social status are associated with support for right populist parties, identify a set of economic and cultural developments likely to have depressed the social status of men without a college education, and show that the relative social status of those men has declined since 1985 in many of the developed democracies. We conclude that status effects provide one pathway through which economic and cultural developments may combine to increase support for the populist right.
Why are the negative effects of social diversity more pronounced in some places than in others? What are the mechanisms underlying the relationship between diversity and discriminatory behaviors, and why do they vary in prevalence and strength across locations? Experimental research has made advances in examining these questions by testing for differences in behavior when interacting with individuals from different groups. At the same time, research in American and comparative politics has demonstrated that attitudes toward other groups are a function of context. Uniting these two lines of research, we argue that discriminatory behaviors should be strongly conditioned by the ways in which groups are organized in space, allowing us to make predictions about the relationship between diversity, segregation, and intergroup behavior. We examine this claim in the context of intra-Jewish cleavage in Israel, using original data compiled through multisite lab-in-the-field experiments and survey responses collected across 20 locations.
This paper examines populist claims-making in US presidential elections. We define populism as a discursive strategy that juxtaposes the virtuous populace with a corrupt elite and views the former as the sole legitimate source of political power. In contrast to past research, we argue that populism is best operationalized as an attribute of political claims rather than a stable ideological property of political actors. This analytical strategy allows us to systematically measure how the use of populism is affected by a variety of contextual factors. Our empirical case consists of 2,406 speeches given by American presidential candidates between 1952 and 1996, which we code using automated text analysis. Populism is shown to be a common feature of presidential politics among both Democrats and Republicans, but its prevalence varies with candidates' relative positions in the political field. In particular, we demonstrate that the probability of a candidate's reliance on populist claims is directly proportional to his distance from the center of power (in this case, the presidency). This suggests that populism is primarily a strategic tool of political challengers, and particularly those who have legitimate claims to outsider status. By examining temporal changes in populist claims-making on the political left and right, its variation across geographic regions and field positions, and the changing content of populist frames, our paper contributes to the debate on populism in modern democracies, while integrating field theory with the study of institutional politics.