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The Dynamics of Voters’ Left/Right Identification: The Role of Economic and Cultural Attitudes*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 November 2013

Catherine E. de Vries
Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford
Armen Hakhverdian
Department of Political Science, University of Amsterdam
Bram Lancee
WZB Berlin Social Research Center


The mobilization of culturally rooted issues has altered political competition throughout Western Europe. This article analyzes to what extent the mobilization of immigration issues has affected how people identify with politics. Specifically, it analyzes whether voters’ left/right self-identifications over the past 30 years increasingly correspond to cultural rather than economic attitudes. This study uses longitudinal data from the Netherlands between 1980 and 2006 to demonstrate that as time progresses, voters’ left/right self-placements are indeed more strongly determined by anti-immigrant attitudes than by attitudes towards redistribution. These findings show that the issue basis of left/right identification is dynamic in nature and responsive to changes in the political environment.

Original Articles
Copyright © The European Political Science Association 2013 

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Catherine E. de Vries is Professor of European Politics and Fellow of Lincoln College, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, Manor Road Building, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UQ, United Kingdom ( Armen Hakhverdian is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, University of Amsterdam, Oudezijds Achterburgwal 237, 1012 DL Amsterdam, the Netherlands ( Bram Lancee is Humboldt Research Fellow, Migration, Integration, Transnationalization Research Unit, WZB Berlin Social Research Center, Reichpietschufer 50, D-10785, Berlin, Germany ( The authors would like to thank Sergi Pardos-Prado and Marco Steenbergen as well as two anonymous reviewers of Political Science Research and Methods for excellent comments on previous versions of this paper. The usual disclaimers apply.


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