Democracy and Power Diffusion


Prof. Dr. Adrian Vatter

(Former) Collaborator

Dr. Julian Bernauer


The project, running since 2012, studies the character of democracy. The political-institutional setup of democracy varies with respect to the diffusion of power, affecting all of the behavior of political actors as well as the performance and legitimacy of political systems.

The main goals of the project are:

1.    A deep theoretical foundation of the concept of power diffusion
2.    An encompassing, up-to-date analysis of empirical patterns of democracy, covering its determinants and consequences as well

The theoretical discussion of power diffusion draws on the concepts of proportional (consensual) and majoritarian democracy, presidentialism and parliamentarism, centralization and decentralization as well as direct and representative democracy. These are fused into a multi-dimensional concept of power diffusion, which integrates the political-institutional variety as well as interrelations between political-institutional features. Based on a combination of institutionalist and deliberative approaches, a theoretical connection between the degree of power diffusion, the behavior of political actors and the performance and legitimacy of democracy are made. The empirical investigations cover these research questions:

  • Where are countries placed on a map of power diffusion?
  • How can we explain levels of power diffusion?
  • Do democracies converge towards a certain model of power diffusion?
  • How does power diffusion affect the performance and legitimacy of democracy?
  • Can we also detect patterns of power diffusion at the subnational level?

The planned result of the project is a book publication as well as a number of research articles. One contribution on the way to answering the research questions is the establishment of a comprehensive data set covering 61 countries and the period between 1990 and 2015 will be compiled and evaluated. These data are available for scientific purposed. Special attention is paid to the measurement of patterns of democracy as well as the modelling of its explanations and consequences. Measurement modelling appropriate to capture the concept of latent power diffusion is used, and generally a unified statistical approach, which accommodates aspects such as the non-random selection of cases, hierarchical data structures as well as spatial dependencies.


In May 2019, the associated monograph «Power Diffusion and Democracy. Institutions, Deliberation and Outcomes» has been published by Cambridge University Press.


  • Bernauer, Julian und Adrian Vatter. 2019. Power Diffusion and Democracy. Institutions, Deliberation and Outcomes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bernauer, Julian und Adrian Vatter. 2017. Conflict, Choice or Geography? Explaining Patterns of Democracy in Continental Europe. European Journal of Political Research 56(2): 251–278.
  • Bernauer, Julian, Adrian Vatter und Nathalie Giger. 2014. New Patterns of Democracy in the Countries of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems 2. S. 20–37. In Elections and Representative Democracy. Representation and Accountability, hrsg. v. Jacques Thomassen. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Vatter, Adrian, Matthew Flinders und Julian Bernauer. 2014. A Global Trend towards Democratic Convergence? A Lijphartian Analysis of Advanced Democracies. Comparative Political Studies 47(6): 903–29.
  • Bernauer, Julian und Adrian Vatter. 2012. Can’t Get No Satisfaction with the Westminster Model? Winners, Loser, and the Effects of Consensual and Direct Democratic Institutions on Satisfaction with Democracy. European Journal of Political Research 51(4): 435–68.
  • Vatter, Adrian und Julian Bernauer. 2009. The Missing Dimension of Democracy. Institutional Patterns in 25 EU Member States between 1997 and 2006. European Union Politics 10(3): 335–59.