Comparing Party Polarization in Europe
In the last twenty years the number of studies on party polarization has been constantly increasing. A relevant number of them stem in the context of the American literature, defending a polarization process limited to American party elites. Recently, some of these studies are defending also a process of polarization both at elite and mass levels. However, party polarization has been much less analysed in comparative perspective, and analyses of polarization in Europe are scarce. In many cases there is lack of clarity about the conceptualization of the phenomena itself, and there is a variety of measures that are weakly standardised. In a similar vein, neither the determinants nor the consequences of party polarization have been systematically addressed. This paper pretends to be a systematic attempt in order to review the relevant literature, to propose a working definition, and to discuss reliable empirical measures. Using ESS data, we aim as well to make some theoretical and empirical contributions about some of the factors conditioning polarization in electoral politics and their implications for political processes in Europe.