Education as a New Base of Political Cleavage?

About this Session


Thu. 07.04.'22 16:30



Speaker: Martin Elff, Co-Author: Sigrid Roßteutscher Abstract: It has often been claimed in recent literature that class voting is in decline due to the increasing salience of cultural issues—issues that lead to a re-alignment of the working classes with right-wing populism. Some authors go even further and claim that education has become a new structural cleavage, while others argue that income and education are two aspects of class that nevertheless have different relations to value orientations and voting. However, both strands of the literature agree that these are rather new developments. (West) Germany is unique in allowing to test the validity of these notions, in so far as both the social/cultural liberal-conservative dimension and the economic socialist/free-market dimension find a sufficiently strong expression in the party system. Moreover, a relatively long time series of election study data is available. We make use of this opportunity and analyze a long-term compilation of German electoral studies from 1949 to 2021 and examine the dynamics of change in “socio-economic” voting and “educational voting”, that is, whether the latter displace the former and whether these changes are relatively new or the reflection of a long-term process. In this context, we focus on voting for the SPD, as an example of the “Old Left,” for the Greens, as an example of a “New Politics” party, for the AfD, as an example of a right-wing populist party, and on non-voting.