Party Polarization and the Ideological Congruence of Governments<sup>*</sup>

G. Bingham Powell

in Citizens, Context, and Choice

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780199599233
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595790 | DOI:
Party Polarization and the Ideological Congruence of Governments*

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It is expected that the ideological congruence between the median citizen and the government will be shaped by various institutional features, especially the party system. The first two modules of Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) studies allow us to explore these relationships across thirty-three countries (following fifty-six elections). The chapter compares these results, which use the self-placement of citizens and their placement of political parties on a left–right scale, with results from other approaches to estimating ideological congruence in a smaller set of countries over a longer time span. The polarization of the party system has particularly large and robust effects on ideological (in)congruence across a variety of political systems. The party system polarization effects seem to be even larger in systems with SMD election rules, but seem to be diminished in presidential systems. Analysis of the causal mechanisms focuses on two important parties that shape government formation: the median legislative party and the plurality vote winner. Polarization of the party system is associated with greater distances between these parties and the government that they shape. As expected, more political parties facilitate congruence, but the effects are small and only marginally significant. Effects of the election rules are contingent on the level of polarization.

Keywords: representation; electoral systems; party systems; polarization; congruence; Left–Right scale; congruence; CSES

Chapter.  6927 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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