A wide body of research has studied the impact of religious cleavages on electoral choice in a range of democracies. This research focuses on two types of religious cleavages. One type of religious cleavage is the confessional cleavage, which is a measure of the center-periphery cleavages. This type of cleavage is measured in surveys using indicators of respondents’ religious identities (e.g., Christian vs. Muslim [when one needs to distinguish between voters of different faiths], Catholic vs. Protestant [when one needs to distinguish between different denominations within the same broader faith], and Presbyterian vs. Methodist [when one needs to distinguish between different traditions]). The other type of religious cleavage is the clerical cleavage, which divides religious from secular (i.e., nonreligious) voters. Clerical cleavages are measured using either a measure of religious behavior (e.g., individuals’ frequency of attendance of religious services or frequency of prayer) or beliefs (e.g., whether and the degree to which one believes in the tenets associated with one’s religious identity). Where such cleavages are present, previous research shows that religious groups tend to vote for parties appealing to their votes, while religious voters behave differently from secular voters. A wide body of research also examines whether and how the effects of religious cleavages change over time. One line of research argues that the effects of religious cleavages on electoral choices change in response to changes in society and among individuals. For instance, as individuals and society as a whole become more secular, some research argues that religious cleavages impact electoral choices less than more religious societies where religion matters more to individuals. Additionally, as voters become more cognitively sophisticated, voters do not need to rely on religious cleavages, resulting in weaker religious effects on voting behavior. Another line of research argues that the effects of religious cleavages change in response to changes in the messages articulated by political parties: When parties compete on issues relevant to religious voters and maintain organizational ties to religious groups in society, the effects of religious cleavages on voting behavior will be strong; when parties deemphasize religious issues and reduce formal ties to religious organizations, the effects of religious cleavages will weaken. While research suggests both types of changes impact the effects of religious cleavages on electoral choices, more research is needed to determine the extent to which ties between parties and religious voters have weakened, especially after accounting for the impact of religious and parental socialization on the behavior of seculars, as well as the degree to which material satisfaction increases the salience of religious issues for religious voters.
Christopher D. Raymond
Mark Bovens and Anchrit Wille
Educational level is one of the strongest factors in explaining how citizens behave in politics. Political scientists have shown time and again that the higher their level of formal education, the more people are interested in politics, the more they trust politicians, and the more they participate in politics. A strong educational gradient can be observed at almost every form of participation, and in many Western liberal democracies. Far less attention has been given to the political consequences of this gap in participation between the well- and the less-educated. In the 21st century, educational level has turned out to be a driver behind the rise of new social and political divides in Western democracies. Increasingly, education is studied separately from class or income as a source of political attitudes, political behavior, and social and political inequalities. It is a very relevant factor to understand the contours of the contemporary political landscape in consolidated Western democracies. Traditional cleavages are eroding, and rising levels of education have been creating new social groups and new political inequalities between educational groups. In many Western democracies, the well-educated have come to dominate democratic institutions. This rise of a political meritocracy has led to policy incongruences in favor of the well-educated and is a source of resentment among the lesser-educated. For example, education has been one of the main explanatory factors in the vote for Brexit, the support for Trump in the United States, and the election of Macron and the rise of the Yellow Vests movement in France.
The linkage between voters and political parties is to some degree based on stable social cleavages. Such cleavages express important and lasting societal divisions, allow parties and voters to establish long-term ties, and provide incumbents with clear representative and policy-making tasks against which they can be evaluated. Most research on cleavages has been based on the classic cleavages that were outlined in the Lipset-Rokkan model for social cleavages in industrial societies. These are: (1) the center–periphery cleavage, which is anchored in geographical regions and related to different ethnic and linguistic groups as well as religious minorities; (2) the religious conflict between the Church and the State, which pitted the secular state against the historical privileges of the churches; this cleavage has more recently polarized the religious section against the secular section of the population; (3) the class conflict in the labor market, which involved owners and employers versus tenants, laborers, and workers; and (4) the conflict in the commodity market between buyers and sellers of agricultural products, or more generally, between the urban and the rural population. Other social cleavages, such as gender, educational differences, and new divisions within the large new middle class, have been focused upon during the last decades. The new divisions within the new middle class are “horizontal” conflicts and can be conceptualized as a basic conflict between public and private employees, and as an alternative way of conceptualization, between those who work within technical, organizational, or interpersonal service environments. Some of the cleavages have declined in importance over time, while others have increased. Some cleavages have changed character such as the class cleavage where part of the new middle class has voted for the New Left and part of the working class has voted for the New Right in the last decades. Changes in the impact and character of different cleavages have resulted in strategic reconsideration of important policies and changing location of the parties in the political space.
Political party systems are an important element of political systems in Africa and elsewhere. They form the central intermediate institution between the general population and the government. Party systems represent and aggregate diverse political views and group interests, and they form coalitions that then form governments with potentially important consequences of democracy and political stability. Unlike the case in the period directly after independence, African party systems have been overwhelmingly multiparty since the 1990s. As a result, the literature has grown significantly, although most works focus on political parties rather than party systems. Many efforts have been devoted to classification, referring to the legal context as well as, more specifically, the number of relevant parties, the levels of institutionalization, and, less often, the degree of ideological or other polarization. While levels of institutionalization and ideological differences are generally not pronounced, more than half of African party systems have been one-party dominant, of which most are authoritarian. In contrast, two-party and pluralist-party systems, which make up approximately one half of all multiparty systems, are generally more democratic. Besides determining classifications, most analytical work focuses on the determinants of African party systems using quantitative and qualitative as well as macro- and micro-level methodologies. Three determinants are debated: first, ethnicity, which has been cited as the main social cleavage behind African party systems; however, while ethnicity matters, its effects vary and are limited; second, political institutions, especially electoral systems for legislative elections, which only partly explain fragmentation or other features; third, the performance of political parties and rationalist approaches. Scholars largely agree that all of these elements need to be taken into account. While certain functions of party systems may facilitate democratization and political stability or other outcomes, little empirical work exists on the consequences of party systems. Some evidence suggests that highly institutionalized, moderately fragmented, and polarized systems promote democracy. Future research faces many challenges, in particular the development of integrated theory and more fine-grained data, as well as an increased focus on the consequences of party systems.
Morality policies are a specific set of public issues that provoke fierce debates over the “right way” of living. Popular examples are the referendum on same-sex marriage in Ireland in 2015, the conflict on abortion policy in Poland in 2016, the reform on prostitution policy in France in 2016, and the legalization of assisted dying in Canada in 2016. Future moral questions concern the use of CRISPR in gene editing of embryos, transgender rights, the regulation of self-driving cars with a hands-off regulation, and the involvement of robots in elderly care. Morality policy analysis is a relatively new field of study that struggles with finding a clear-cut definition and delimitation of morality issues from nonmorality issues. The lowest common denominator is that value conflicts over “first principles” and “battles between right and wrong” are indicative of this type of policy, while monetary values fade into the background. Based on this definition, four groups of typical value-loaded topics can be identified, issues related to: life and death (e.g., assisted dying, abortion policy, artificial reproduction, capital punishment), gender and sexuality (e.g., homosexuality, prostitution, pornography, sex education, transgender rights), addictive behavior (e.g., drug policy, gambling policy), and limitations on individual self-determination (e.g., gun policy, veil policy, Islamic religious education). The basic analytical question that drives the scholarly community is the popular proposition that “policies determine politics.” In other words, the underlying key interest is whether morality policies provoke different political processes than “nonmorality” issues. At first, scholars from the United States started to explore this question, which was also known as “culture wars.” Later on, since the early 2000s, the enquiry expanded in Europe. Thus, a growing number of researchers are investigating policymaking processes for morality issues and are evaluating traditional explanatory factors from the field of comparative public policy analysis. These factors include, among others, the influence of political parties and party cleavage structures, interest groups and societal mobilization, and institutional as well as cultural variables (e.g., religion, value change, and cultural modernization). In most cases, a uniform and direct impact of these factors is controversial, which is probably related to disagreement about the classification of public issues as moral problems. Discussion of this problem would benefit from contributions from other fields, such as research on religion and politics, the literature on gender and politics, legislative behavior, and political psychology. Aside from a more careful review of traditional explanations of morality policy change, including in particular the role of political institutions, it would be enriching to widen the analytical focus and investigate other stages of the policy cycle. The implementation phase is particularly interesting because morality policy outputs often suffer from legal vagueness, which leaves wide room for discretion by street-level bureaucrats or other third parties. Moreover, an increasing number of cross-policy comparisons (including comparisons between morality and nonmorality issues), as well as an alternative set of methodological tools (e.g., social experiments, network analysis, and quantitative content analysis), would enrich our understanding of morality policymaking.