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Dealing with bad guys: actor- and process-level determinants of the “devil shift” in policy making

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 February 2015

Manuel Fischer
Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Research and Technology Eawag and University of Berne, Switzerland E-mail:
Karin Ingold
Institute of Political Science, University of Bern, Switzerland E-mail:
Pascal Sciarini
Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Geneva, Switzerland E-mail:
Frédéric Varone
Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Geneva, Switzerland E-mail:


Policy actors tend to misinterpret and distrust opponents in policy processes. This phenomenon, known as the “devil shift”, consists of the following two dimensions: actors perceive opponents as more powerful and as more evil than they really are. Analysing nine policy processes in Switzerland, this article highlights the drivers of the devil shift at two levels. On the actor level, interest groups, political parties and powerful actors suffer more from the devil shift than state actors and powerless actors. On the process level, the devil shift is stronger in policy processes dealing with socio-economic issues as compared with other issues. Finally, and in line with previous studies, there is less empirical evidence of the power dimension of the devil shift phenomenon than of its evilness dimension.

Research Article
© Cambridge University Press, 2015 

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