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Brahmin Left versus Merchant Right: Changing Political Cleavages in 21 Western Democracies, 1948-2020

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  • Amory Gethin

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, PJSE - Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, WIL - World Inequality Lab)

  • Clara Martínez-Toledano

    (WIL - World Inequality Lab , Imperial College London)

  • Thomas Piketty

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, PJSE - Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, WIL - World Inequality Lab)

Abstract

This paper provides new evidence on the long-run evolution of political cleavages in 21 Western democracies by exploiting a new database on the vote by socioeconomic characteristic covering over 300 elections held between 1948 and 2020. In the 1950s-1960s, the vote for democratic, labor, 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 to "multi-elite party systems" in the 2000s-2010s: high-education elites now vote for the "left", while high-income elites continue to vote for the "right". This transition has been accelerated by the rise of green and anti-immigration movements, whose key distinctive feature is to concentrate the votes of the higher-educated and lower-educated electorate, respectively. Combining our database with historical data on political parties' programs, we provide evidence that the reversal of the educational cleavage is strongly linked to the emergence of a new "sociocultural" axis of political conflict. We also discuss the evolution of other political cleavages related to age, geography, religion, gender, and the integration of new ethnoreligious minorities.

Suggested Citation

  • Amory Gethin & Clara Martínez-Toledano & Thomas Piketty, 2021. "Brahmin Left versus Merchant Right: Changing Political Cleavages in 21 Western Democracies, 1948-2020," World Inequality Lab Working Papers halshs-03226118, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wilwps:halshs-03226118
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-03226118
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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. Kotschy, Rainer & Sunde, Uwe, 2022. "Does Demography Determine Democratic Attitudes?," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 338, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    4. Windsteiger, Lisa, 2022. "The redistributive consequences of segregation and misperceptions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 144(C).

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