Patterns of Disagreement in Democratic Politics: Comparing Germany, Japan, and the United States


  • We wish to acknowledge our colleagues on the German, Japanese, and American research teams of the Cross National Election Project: Max Kaase, Hans Dieter Klingemann, Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, Hiroshi Akuto, Paul Beck, and Russell Dalton. We are also grateful to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for financing the 1990 German study, to the Japanese Ministry of Education for the support of the 1993 Japanese study, and to the National Science Foundation of the United States for its support of the 1992 American study. The German data can be obtained from the Central Archive for Empirical Social Research at the University of Cologne ( ZA Study Number 2517. The Japanese data can be obtained from the Social Science Japan Data Archive ( SSJ Study Number 0145. The American data can be obtained from the Interuniversity Consortium for Social and Political Research ( ICPSR Study Number 6541.

Robert Huckfeldt is professor of political science, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA 95616 ( Ken'ichi Ikeda is professor of social psychology, University of Tokyo, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan ( Franz Urban Pappi is professor of Political Science I, University of Mannheim, D 7, 27 - Room 402, 68131 Mannheim, Germany (


An important ingredient in democratic politics is the experience of disagreement through social communication and political discussion. If people fail to encounter contrary viewpoints, their own views are never challenged, they are never forced to reconsider initially held opinions, and they are effectively excluded from democratic deliberation. This article examines patterns of political agreement and disagreement within the communication networks of citizens in Germany, Japan, and the United States. Several questions are addressed. Are there cross-national differences in patterns of agreement and disagreement among citizens? To what extent are these patterns subject to individual attitudes, to the structure of communication networks, and to levels of aggregate support for particular preferences and opinions? Finally, what are the implications of disagreement for civic capacity and political engagement? Empirical analyses are based on cooperative election surveys conducted in each country during the early 1990s.