Democracy challenged: how parties politicize different democratic principles

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Scholars have paid increasing attention to how questions of multi-level governance have become politicized in the domestic political arena. Issues surrounding democratic government itself have received surprisingly little attention in this debate. In this article, we ask how political parties politicize the principles of liberal democracy within advanced democracies. We expect that challenger parties are most likely to question existing principles. The targets of their criticism, however, should vary according to their ideological origins. Conducting automated quantitative text analysis of Swiss, German and Austrian party press releases between 2006 and 2018 using a multidimensional dictionary of liberal democracy, we confirm that left-libertarian and populist radical right parties are the main challengers of the democratic status quo. The foundation of criticism, however, differs fundamentally. While left-libertarians focus on principles that strengthen individual autonomy in politics, populist radical right parties demand more forms of participation and fewer constraints by liberal elements of democracy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30(10)
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1961-1983
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Swiss National Science Foundation: [Grant Number 100017_185204]. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2019 EUROLAB authors’ Conference in Cologne, 2019 ECPR General Conference in Wrocław, the IPZ Publication Seminar at the University of Zurich, the 2020 Annual Meeting of the SPSA in Lucerne and the 2021 Virtual Conference of Europeanists (CES). The authors have received valuable comments from three anonymous reviewers, Matthew E. Bergman, Paula Ganga, Ralph Schroeder, Simon Bornschier, Stijn van Kessel and Matthias Enggist. The authors are thankful to Nadine Golinelli for impeccable research assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

    Research areas

  • automated text analysis, dictionary, left-libertarian parties, Liberal democracy, politicization of democracy, populist radical right parties
  • Politics