Cleavage Formation in the 21st Century – How Social Identities Shape Voting Behavior in Contexts of Electoral Realignment

05.09.2023 - 12:00 to 13:30
Location : 
A 5,6 Raum A 231
Type of Event : 
AB B-Kolloquium
Delia Zollinger
Lecturer affiliation: 
Universität Zürich

Western Europe is experiencing growing levels of political polarization between parties of the New Left and the Far Right. In many countries, the socio-structural foundations of this divide (in class, education, residence) are by now so clear that many interpret this divide as a fully mobilized new electoral cleavage. At the same time, observers have highlighted a growing fragmentation of party systems and the proliferation of new competitors.
This book proposes an explanation of these - seemingly - contradictory developments through a cleavage perspective: we argue that we are witnessing the emergence of a social cleavage between universalism and particularism. We emphasize the crucial role of group identities mediating the link between socio-structural change and broader party blocks defined by their distinctive ideologies with respect to this new divide. The book presents evidence for the formation of a universalism-particularism cleavage across European party systems that diverge strongly on institutional and political characteristics, highlighting the similarities in the structural and identity-based processes that provide a joint foundation for cleavage formation. We study the interplay of all three elements of cleavage formation: the socio-structural element, the normative identity element, and the organizational element. Based on original survey data from France, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK, we take a comparative perspective and demonstrate that developments of cleavage formation are quite similar across countries, despite different institutional settings. Although the ideological blocks situated at the poles of the new cleavage differ substantially in strength - as a result of supply-side driven factors - the basic configuration of party systems and their structural anchors emerge as remarkably similar across countries.