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The “New” Cultural Cleavage in Western Europe: A Coalescence of Religious and Secular Value Divides?

  • Anna Pless (a1), Paul Tromp (a1) and Dick Houtman (a2)


Moral traditionalism versus progressiveness and secular authoritarianism versus libertarianism are often understood as central to the same “new” cultural cleavage in politics. Despite the often-found sizable correlations between these two cultural value divides, the present paper theorizes that this relationship is not a cross-contextual constant, but rather a specific feature of secularized contexts where moral traditionalism is relatively marginal. We test this theory by means of a two-stage statistical analysis of the data from the four waves of the European Values Study (1981–2008) for 17 Western European countries. Our findings confirm that the two value divides are most strongly connected in the most secularized contexts because the latter are least morally traditionalist. While the two cultural divides hence tend to be distinct in more religious Western-European countries, they tend to coalesce into one single “new” cultural divide in more secular ones.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Anna Pless, Centre for Sociological Research, KU Leuven, Parkstraat 45, box 3601, 3000 Leuven, Belgium. E-mail:


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The “New” Cultural Cleavage in Western Europe: A Coalescence of Religious and Secular Value Divides?

  • Anna Pless (a1), Paul Tromp (a1) and Dick Houtman (a2)


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