Public Release: 

Research finds federalism still effective against would-be strongmen like Trump

The fear that states in federal countries are destined to lose their powers to central government is unwarranted, new research at the University of Kent has found

University of Kent

The fear that states in federal countries are destined to lose their powers to central government is unwarranted, new research at the University of Kent has found.

An international project on centralisation and decentralisation in federations - the first major study of its kind - finds that centralisation is not inevitable. Even the United States, where federalism is often seen as being at risk, is less centralised than many think.

A team led by Dr Paolo Dardanelli, Reader in Comparative Politics at Kent's School of Politics and International Relations, measured centralisation and decentralisation in 22 policy fields and five fiscal categories in Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Switzerland, and the United States from 1790 to 2010.

Among their key findings they discovered that:

  • There has been centralisation in terms of legislation but less so as regards administration and fiscal revenues
  • Canada has bucked the trend and become more decentralised in all three dimensions (legislatively, administratively, and fiscally). Germany and India have also become more decentralised in recent decades
  • De/centralisation dynamics are driven primarily by socio-economic factors such as market integration and the demand for welfare service.
  • Different systems follow different paths to de/centralisation depending on features such as the constitutional amendment process and the role of the courts

Dr Dardanelli said: 'The USA today shows that the states have retained major powers and use them effectively. Some of the most spirited opposition to Trump's policies have come from the states rather than Congress.'

The project findings are published in a special issue of Publius: The Journal of Federalism and the dataset is available from the UK Data Service.


The De/Centralisation Dataset was funded by the Leverhulme Trust and received additional support from the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Forum of Federations.

For further information and interview or image requests contact Sandy Fleming at the University of Kent Press Office.
Tel: +44 (0)1227 823581

News releases can also be found at

University of Kent on Twitter:

Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It was ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018 and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

In 2018 it was also ranked in the top 500 of Shanghai Ranking's Academic Ranking of World Universities and 47th in the Times Higher Education's (THE) new European Teaching Rankings.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

Kent has received two Queen's Anniversary prizes for Higher and Further Education.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.