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Dimiter Toshkov and Honorata Mazepus in The Economist about the 'winner-loser gap'

The Economist published an article about a working paper about the effects of democratic elections on satisfaction with democracy. The paper was written by Dimiter Koshkov, Associate Professor at the Institute of Public Administration and Honorata Mazepus, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs.

The last national elections were again won by Mark Rutte and his centre-right liberal party the VVD. To form a coalition, Rutte will have to bargain with several parties. The VVD has les the past three governments and Rutte is about to start a fourth consecutive term. In contrast, Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV) has never been a formal member of a coalition, despite regularly finishing in the top three since his party's formation in 2006. It did so again this time. Many of Wilders' supporters are doubtless angry that the PVV remains perennially in opposition. Two recent academic studies show that disenchantment with democracy, and much else, is common among European voters whose parties have suffered electoral defeat.

The 'winner-loser gap'

This phenomenon is known by researchers as the 'winner-loser gap', whereby supporters of opposition parties are more despairing about their country’s political system than supporters of governing parties. A working paper by Dimiter Toshkov and Honorata Mazepus has quantified this effect across 20 countries. They analysed how supporters of various parties changed their attitudes over time. When they looked at people who voted for parties that had gained or lost power between 2012 and 2018, the results were clear. After adjusting for demographic differences across the countries, they estimated a 7% fall in satisfaction with democracy for a typical loser and a 6% rise for a typical winner. Strikingly, they also found signs of a winner-loser gap in the levels of trust citizens say they have in other respects—in parliament and politicians; the courts and police; and even in other people in general. 

Read the whole article here

Dr. Dimiter Toshkov is Associate Professor at the Institute of Public Administration, Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs. His main fields of research are European Union politics, comparative public policy, and research methodology. He is also affiliated with the Central and East European Studies Centre (CEES). He teaches courses on public policy and research design and regularly gives talks on game theory, research methodology, and European integration.

Dr. Mazepus has been awarded the Leiden University Fund Snouck Hurgronje Grant 2020 for an interdisciplinary project 'Keeping the powerful in check: from small communities to large states'. This project investigates under what conditions (democratic) checks and balances can effectively restrain the power of political leaders. It combines expertise and methods from anthropology, psychology, history, and political science.

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