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Political Research Exchange

A two-level Analysis of the New Class Cleavage in Switzerland

Andreas Goldberg
University of Amsterdam
Andreas Goldberg
University of Amsterdam
Pascal Sciarini
University of Geneva

Several studies have unveiled that the influence of social cleavages is not uniform across and within countries, but varies considerably depending on the context (e.g. Armingeon 1998; Dalton 1996, 2002; Lijphart 1979). In Switzerland, due to the comparatively low nationalization with different coexisting cantonal party and electoral systems, the nature and importance of cleavages vary from one canton to the next.
Since the beginning of the 1990s the level of nationalization rose from only 60 per cent to around 75 per cent in 2007 (Nicolet and Sciarini 2010: 28). This is mainly due to the rise of the SVP (Kriesi et al. 2005). The success of the SVP is strongly linked to the developments around the process of globalization. Winners of the globalization process are members of the new middle-class like socio-cultural professions or self-employed persons, whereas the old middle-class (peasants or craftsmen) and the working class are said to belong to the losers (Giugni and Sciarini 2008).
The question, however, is where and why this new line of conflict could become important for the electoral decision. In several cantons the impact of the (new) class cleavage on the electoral choice may be conditional on institutional factors (e.g. district magnitude) or on specific characteristics of the respective party system (e.g. the degree of polarization and fragmentation, see Lachat 2011). In bigger cantons with a more polarized and fragmented party system it should be easier for parties to mobilize along new lines of conflict. In small cantons, with often only two or three parties competing, the impact of a new cleavage is likely to be low. Hence, using multilevel modeling the aim is to find out whether and to what extent contextual, cantonal factors such as the degree of electoral competition influence the importance of the new class cleavage in Switzerland.
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