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Social Structure and Electoral Behavior in Comparative Perspective: The Decline of Social Cleavages in Western Europe Revisited

  • Martin Elff (a1)

A new conventional wisdom characterizes the comparative study of electoral politics. Social cleavages, once a stabilizing factor of electoral behavior in Western Europe, are on the wane. Voting decisions have become individualized and old social cleavages have been superseded by new value-related cleavages. This article challenges that view as an exaggeration.Martin Elff is Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences of the University of Mannheim, Germany ( The author wishes to thank William Maloney, Anthony Mughan, Betty Haire Weyerer, Thomas Gschwend, Jan van Deth, Sigrid Roßteutscher, Simone Abendschön, Daniel Stegmüller, and especially Jennifer Hochschildt and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts.

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