English title: Explaining the salience of left–right ideology in postindustrial democracies: The role of structural economic change

Author(s): Timothy Hellwig -

Language: English

Type: Journal article

Year: 2008


Does left–right ideology structure electoral competition? While many studies show that ideology is a powerful determinant of party choice, a growing number of scholars claim that the salience of ‘left’ and ‘right’ has declined in recent decades. These contrasting views motivate a consideration of whether the salience of the left–right dimension varies across political parties and national contexts. Drawing on recent advances in the study of the welfare state, this article argues that just as policy appeals expressed in the language of left and right crystallised during a period of economic change, changes in the organisation of postindustrial economies should weaken the left–right bases of competition. Analyses of 87 parties in 16 parliamentary democracies show that occupational heterogeneity in postindustrial economies – indicated by employment in the private service sector and in industries exposed to international competition – reduces the salience of the left–right dimension for the vote. The implications of study findings for future work on policy responsiveness and electoral change in advanced capitalist democracies are discussed.

Volume: 47

Issue: 6

From page no: 687

To page no: 709

Refereed: Yes

DOI: 10.1111/J.1475-6765.2008.00778.X

Journal: European Journal of Political Research

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