Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy > Vol 3 > Issue 3–4

Divide and Conquer: Presidents, Parliaments, and Political Polarization during Electoral Campaigns

Kemal Kıvanç Aköz, Assistant Professor, Department of Theoretical Economics, HSE University, Russia, , Ekim Arbatli, Associate Professor, School of Politics and Governance, HSE University, Russia, , Dina Rosenberg, Research Associate, Center on Democratic Performance, Binghamton University, USA,
Suggested Citation
Kemal Kıvanç Aköz, Ekim Arbatli and Dina Rosenberg (2022), "Divide and Conquer: Presidents, Parliaments, and Political Polarization during Electoral Campaigns", Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy: Vol. 3: No. 3–4, pp 295-315.

Publication Date: 01 Dec 2022
© 2022 K. K. Aköz, E. Arbatli, and D. Rosenberg
Elections,  Comparative politics,  Elections
Political polarizationelectionspresidential regimesparliamentary regimes


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In this article:
Political Polarization, Institutions, and Executive Elections: Are Presidential Campaigns More Polarizing? 
A Model for Polarization of Opinions 
The Election 
The Model Results 
Data and Methodology 
Empirical Results and Discussion 


Although political polarization is in the center of contemporary debates on democratic backsliding, the institutional determinants of this phenomenon remain understudied. In this paper, we investigate how the form of government can affect polarization levels in a country. Specifically, we focus on the role of executive elections as the primary mechanism. Presenting both a formal model and cross-national empirical analyses, we show that executive elections under presidential regimes are significantly more likely to affect political polarization among citizens. Candidates in parliamentary systems are often party leaders who are committed to party policies and cannot deviate much to disclose new information. In contrast, presidential candidates can strategically design the discourse in their election campaigns, thus influencing voters' opinions and making mass polarization more likely. Our empirical analysis shows that this effect is nonlinear and especially profound when the initial polarization in a country is low.



Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, Volume 3, Issue 3-4 Special Issue - The Political Economy of Polarization
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.