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How Polarized are Citizens? Measuring Ideology from the Ground-Up

Mirko Draca and Carlo Schwarz
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Mirko Draca: University of Warwick and Centre for Economic Performance, LSE
Carlo Schwarz: University of Warwick and Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE)

The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) from University of Warwick, Department of Economics

Abstract: Strong evidence has been emerging that major democracies have become more politically polarized, at least according to measures based on the ideological positions of political elites. We ask: have the general public (‘citizens’) followed the same pattern? Our approach is based on unsupervised machine learning models as applied to issueposition survey data. This approach firstly indicates that coherent, latent ideologies are strongly apparent in the data, with a number of major, stable types that we label as: Liberal Centrist, Conservative Centrist, Left Anarchist and Right Anarchist. Using this framework, and a resulting measure of ‘citizen slant’, we are then able to decompose the shift in ideological positions across the population over time. Specifically, we find evidence of a ‘disappearing center’ in a range of countries with citizens shifting away from centrist ideologies into anti-establishment ‘anarchist’ ideologies over time. This trend is especially pronounced for the US.

Keywords: Polarization; Ideology; Unsupervised Learning (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 C81 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-big, nep-cmp and nep-pol
Date: 2019
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:wrk:warwec:1218

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