The effects of party competition on consensus formation

Abstract

The fight over setting the political agenda is one of the basic mechanisms of party competition of every democracy. However, this political game may have side effects in other aspects of the public debate. One aspect of general interest is how it may alter consensus formation processes among citizens, which may result in states of consensus, polarisation, or opinion fragmentation in the population. In this paper, we study the interrelated dynamics of two processes affecting opinion dynamics when multiple issues are debated. First, we model party competition via campaigning and its effect on the saliency or importance with which citizens perceive different political issues. Second, we consider a bounded–confidence model to describe the dynamics of citizens’ opinion and consensus formation. We find that the effects of party competition on consensus formation are rich and non-trivially dependent on the configuration of party positions in the political space. We illustrate that —as one would intuitively expect—there are party configurations that foster a paradigmatic state of polarisation for a wide range of model parameters. However, we also show that other party configurations have the opposite effect, and can facilitate reaching a consensus state that could otherwise not have been achieved. Our results illustrate the richness of possible outcomes of interrelations between party competition and consensus formation.

Guillermo Romero Moreno
Guillermo Romero Moreno
Research Associate