A team of political scientists from VUB has won the Frank Cass Prize for the best article of 2023. Kamil Bernaerts, Benjamin Blanckaert and Didier Caluwaerts are affiliated with the Department of Political Science and the DFUTURE research group (VUB Centre for Democratic Futures). Together, they wrote the article β€œInstitutional design and polarization. Do consensus democracies fare better in fighting polarization than majoritarian democracies?”. The article was published in the leading journal Democratization and has made an important contribution to understanding democratisation and political polarisation.

The three researchers are grateful for the recognition:

β€œWe are honoured and proud that our work has received international attention in the form of the Frank Cass Prize. Our article emphasises the importance of inclusive political institutions at this time of deep divisions. The prize confirms the relevance of our research to the impact of democratic organisation on polarisation.”

Onderzoekers verbonden aan het departement Politieke Wetenschappen

Kamil Bernaerts, Benjamin Blanckaert en Didier Caluwaerts

The article proposes that while political and social polarisation are growing, this is not happening to the same extent in all democracies. The researchers found that institutional design has a major impact on polarisation. Countries with consensus democracy, such as proportional representation voting systems, coalition governments and federalism, display lower levels of idea-based and identity-based polarisation. This confirms the hypothesis that consensus democracy is better equipped to address identity-based polarisation, although the effect on idea-based polarisation is smaller.

The jury, composed of leading international academics, praised the article for its meaningful distinction between idea-based and identity-based polarisation, the clear theoretical framework that links various sorts of institution to various forms of polarisation, and the empirical analysis of 36 countries over a period of time.

Read more about the winning article and the Frank Cass Prize here and read the article itself here.