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Brahmin Left Versus Merchant Right: Changing Political Cleavages in 21 Western Democracies, 1948–2020

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  • Amory Gethin
  • Clara Martínez-Toledano
  • Thomas Piketty

Abstract

This article sheds new light on the long-run evolution of political cleavages in 21 Western democracies. We exploit a new database on the socioeconomic determinants of the vote, covering more than 300 elections held between 1948 and 2020. In the 1950s and 1960s, the vote for social democratic, socialist, and affiliated parties was associated with lower-educated and low-income voters. It has gradually become associated with higher-educated voters, giving rise in the 2010s to a disconnection between the effects of income and education on the vote: higher-educated voters now vote for the “left,” while high-income voters continue to vote for the “right.” This transition has been accelerated by the rise of green and anti-immigration movements, whose distinctive feature is to concentrate the votes of the higher-educated and lower-educated electorates. Combining our database with historical data on political parties’ programs, we provide evidence that the reversal of the education cleavage is strongly linked to the emergence of a new “sociocultural” axis of political conflict.

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  • Amory Gethin & Clara Martínez-Toledano & Thomas Piketty, 2022. "Brahmin Left Versus Merchant Right: Changing Political Cleavages in 21 Western Democracies, 1948–2020," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 137(1), pages 1-48.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:137:y:2022:i:1:p:1-48.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/qje/qjab036
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    2. Amory Gethin & Clara Martínez-Toledano & Thomas Piketty, 2022. "Brahmin Left Versus Merchant Right: Changing Political Cleavages in 21 Western Democracies, 1948–2020," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 137(1), pages 1-48.
    3. Klaus Desmet & Ignacio Ortuño-Ortín & Ömer Özak, 2022. "Is Secessionism Mostly About Income or Identity? A Global Analysis of 3,003 Subnational Regions," NBER Working Papers 30428, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Barth, Erling & Finseraas, Henning & Kjelsrud, Anders & Moene, Kalle, 2023. "Openness and the welfare state: risk and income effects in protection without protectionism," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 79(C).
    5. Sunde, Uwe & Kotschy, Rainer, 2022. "Does Demography Determine Democratic Attitudes?," CEPR Discussion Papers 17624, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Schmutz, Benoît & Verdugo, Gregory, 2023. "Do elections affect immigration? Evidence from French municipalities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 218(C).
    7. Kim Leonie Kellermann, 2022. "Political inequality, political participation, and support for populist parties," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 461-482, December.
    8. Christian Joppke, 2023. "Explaining the Populist Right in the Neoliberal West," Societies, MDPI, vol. 13(5), pages 1-20, April.
    9. Windsteiger, Lisa, 2022. "The redistributive consequences of segregation and misperceptions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 144(C).

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