Hanna Bäck, Robert Klemmensen and Florence So have received a three-year grant from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond for the project "Divided Parliaments? Polarization, Moralization, and the Risk of Gridlock". The project will start next year. Congratulations!
In well-functioning democracies, political representatives are capable of compromising to pass legislation that solve problems facing citizens. This entails the need to respond to crises and to adapt policies that are not subjected to the whims of partisanship. Recently, scholars have observed increased “affective polarization”, entailing hostility towards political opponents, in the electorates across many western democracies. Such partisan hostility can threaten the effectiveness and legitimacy of democratic policymaking if it spills over into the functioning of legislatures, leading to gridlock and stalemate.
In this project we investigate if affective polarization influences the legislative behavior of political representatives. We suggest that affective polarization at the elite level entails increased use of moralized language in communication. When using moralized language, representatives signal that compromising is unlikely, since it becomes difficult to ‘split the difference’ on issues of morality.
So far, there is very little research on the effects of affective polarization on legislative behavior. Hence, we fill a clear gap. Empirically, we focus on the Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish parliaments. To establish the degree of affective polarization and moralization in a legislature, we utilize quantitative text analyses of legislative speeches as a measure of their emotional and moral content and connect this to legislation.