In the latest contribution to the Democracy Papers, Thomas Zittel explores when and how polarization becomes a cause for democratic anxiety. He argues that polarization over traditional policy issues is not in itself harmful, and can even be beneficial for democracies. However, he warns that polarization in which parties become divided over the acceptable rules of the game is a problem for democracies. Unfortunately, this latter type of division is increasingly common on both sides of the Atlantic today.
Thomas Zittel is a professor of comparative politics at Goethe-University Frankfurt and external fellow at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES) of the University of Mannheim. He holds an MA from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD from the University of Mannheim. He was a Kennedy Memorial fellow at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies (Harvard University), a Fernand Braudel fellow at the European University Institute (Florence, Italy), and an American Political Science Association Congressional fellow. His research focuses on the institutional and behavioral bases of political representation with a special emphasis on the role of electoral systems, legislative behavior in European democracies, and candidates in election campaigns. Zittel is author and editor of four books. His articles have appeared, among others, in West European Politics, Party Politics, Electoral Studies, Parliamentary Affairs, German Politics, the Journal of Legislative Studies, and the Oxford Handbooks of Political Institutions and Electoral Systems.