Nils-Christian Bormann, PI of the DANGER project, introduced new findings from the DANGER project at the “Political Violence and Democratic Backsliding” workshop in Berlin. He presented results of the relationship between ideological polarization and democratic breakdown in interwar Europe. Early analysis of the Actions by Elites and Leaders data (ABEL) reveals that polarization levels were higher in countries where democracy failed than in states where it survived. Although the results still need to be validated further, they provide the first systematic test of the hypothesis that partisan polarization increases the risk of democratic breakdown.
Organized by the Transformations of Democracy research unit at the Berlin Social Science Center/Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), the workshop brought together more than twenty experts on democracy and violence from the United States and Europe. The scholars discussed questions on public attitudes towards violence in democracies, historical and contemporary cases of democratic breakdown and backsliding, and the role of elites in preventing or aggrevating the threat of of violence to democratic survival.