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Understanding the Rise of Two-Axis Politics in France from 1988 to 2012: “It’s Trust in the Government Stupid!'

Abstract : Changes in the social and attitudinal profile of the French left and right electorates have spurred numerous debates in the recent literature over whether generational replacement, changes in party stances or the emergence of new objective or subjectively perceived constraints (globalization, immigration, peri-urbanization) have caused voters to change allegiances. This paper examines from 1988 to 2012 the relationship between voters’ location on two attitude dimensions (economic and social/cultural) traditionally observed among the French electorate and their vote choice in Presidential Elections. Our results show that cultural issues have not only been related to voting for the National Front but also to mainstream parties (PS, RPR then UMP) albeit in a non-linear manner over time, thus showing either an integration of those issues on behalf of party elites (and opinion adjustment among voters) or a natural and structural rise of those issues among mainstream party followers. We find the importance of cultural issues (mostly immigration) to be non-linear over time, but clearly identify its climax in the politicized battle of 2007 around Sarkozy’s candidacy although all issues (including economic issues) seem to better relate to voting during that year, a result forgotten in the recent literature. Finally, by looking at French post-electoral data from 2012, and thanks to the inclusion of ANES items about trust in government in our survey, we try to offer some theoretical insight as to why the cultural dimension has come to play a larger role in voting decision overtime in France, thus tackling traditional circular arguments about why the working class has “shifted” to the National Front “because of immigration”. We conclude that the translation of cultural conservatism into voting for the extreme right is conditioned by a lack of trust in the very ability of the state to deliver its promises of social change even when social demand is high, especially among low-educated French citizens.
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Adrien Degeorges, Vincent Tiberj. Understanding the Rise of Two-Axis Politics in France from 1988 to 2012: “It’s Trust in the Government Stupid!'. 23ème congrès mondial de science politique, Jul 2014, Montréal, Canada. ⟨hal-02297136⟩



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