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
GB : SAGE Publications
419 - 435 p.
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.