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Which way from left to right? : On the relation between voters’ issue preferences and left-right orientation in West European democracies

Abstract : The left–right scale is the concept most often used to describe citizens’ and parties’ political positions. Its prevalence suggests that political preferences are structured by a single ideological dimension. However, much research shows that citizens’ issue preferences in Western Europe are structured by two dimensions: economic; and social–cultural. How can a single dimension be sufficient to orient oneself in a two-dimensional political space? This article suggests a solution to this paradox: among citizens, the left–right scale and more concrete political issues are related in a non-linear way. Economic issue preferences should be more strongly related to ideological differences among left-wing citizens (e.g. between extreme-left and centre-left citizens) than among right-wing individuals. The reverse pattern should characterize the relation between sociocultural issues and ideological self-placement. The analysis of 28 elections in five West European countries offers strong support for the hypothesis of a non-linear relation.
Keywords : Vote Voter
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Submitted on : Sunday, October 24, 2021 - 5:05:33 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 18, 2022 - 11:44:04 AM

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Romain Lachat. Which way from left to right? : On the relation between voters’ issue preferences and left-right orientation in West European democracies. International Political Science Review, SAGE Publications, 2018, 39 (4), pp.419 - 435. ⟨10.1177/0192512117692644⟩. ⟨hal-03399613⟩

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