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Democratic governance is eroding, while polarization is rising. However, it is unclear whether polarization is as detrimental to democratic governance as this trend implies or whether it is actually beneficial and engaging. Several studies have found that polarization increases turnout and overall political engagement, but polarization is also associated with the rise of extreme parties. To shed light on these disparities, I examine the direct individual level effect of polarization on voter satisfaction with democracy using the mechanisms of voter alienation and indifference. I test this relationship across 24 European countries and different policy and ideological dimensions using data from the European Social Survey and Chapel Hill Expert Survey. I add to the robustness of this relationship by presenting results based on panel data from the British Election Study, the German Longitudinal Election Study, and the LISS panel. I consistently find a negative effect of polarization on democratic satisfaction across all data sources, policy, and ideological dimensions. Consequently, polarization can be both a boon in terms of engaging the electorate and increasing turnout and a bane in terms of decreasing satisfaction with democracy.
Various robust communication effects have been identified through research across multiple disciplines. However, the evidence thus far has been overwhelmingly based on artificial survey treatments, which provide limited insight into how these effects persist in real world scenarios. I conduct a natural experiment on the impact of the EU-Turkey statement announcing the Balkan route closure during the 2015/16 European refugee crisis in Germany. This design allows for testing whether the statement’s framing effect has a lasting effect on public sentiment. On the basis of the statement’s timing, I identify treatment and control groups and demonstrate how the announcement affected people’s perceptions of the refugee crisis, asylum attitudes, and policy preferences. All effects identified are largest immediately after the announcement and then rapidly decline. Therefore, political communication can have a crucial opinion-changing effect, yet only in a limited time frame. This study adds to our understanding of communication effects in real world situations and demonstrates a methodology that can retrospectively applied to any case.