Is this still a political competition or already a fight to the death? Looking at the voting behavior in the Polish parliament

Jacek Lewkowicz (University of Warsaw)
Jan Fałkowski (University of Warsaw)
Michał Sękowski (University of Warsaw)

Abstract

There have been growing concerns that political polarization is becoming more intense over time and that this may have a strong influence on economic policy and thus may harm the economy. That being said, this notion is largely based either on the anecdotal evidence, some aggregate measures related to political competition or survey data, which aims at eliciting public opinion on one issue or another. In this paper we adopt a different perspective and take a closer look at polarization among political elite. Our example comes from Poland in the period 2005-2019 and our focus is particularly on the voting behavior of Polish MPs. Our results suggest that the level of political polarization has been on the rise in the studied period. However, contrary to popular claims, this is not due to a sudden increase in political divide that took place after the elections in 2015. Instead, we observe a gradual increase in the polarization of political views in the parliament over the whole time under analysis. Furthermore, the evidence implies that individual MPs from the governing party or the main opposition party were voting against the party line extremely rarely. Finally, we identify very few votes, in which the governing and the main opposition party voted in unison. This, in turn, shows that during the studied period there was very little willingness to build a consensus. Importantly, this effect appears to be even stronger in case of voting on economic policies.

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