Cleavages – Dead and Gone? An Analysis of Cleavage Structure and Party Choice in Contemporary Finland

Jussi Westinen

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    6 Citations (Scopus)


    In cleavage research in political science, few studies have tested the applicability of a threefold cleavage strategy when analysing national cleavage structures. This study, which has contemporary Finland as a test case, makes two contributions in evaluating the continued relevance of cleavage research. First, it assesses both old and new social structural positions simultaneously in order to explore how they are reflected in the values and attitudes in the electorate. Second, it analyses how these cleavage elements are manifested in party choice and discovers whether value/attitudinal dimensions act as intermediate variables between social structural position and the vote. The statistical analyses are conducted with data from the Finnish National Election Studies from 2003–11. The results show that threefold cleavage definition is not satisfactory for identifying the dynamics in the party-voter-ties despite Finland often being regarded as the epitome of a cleavage-based system. The effect of social structural position on value/attitudinal dimensions is fairly weak and the effect of the social structural position on party choice is mediated through values and attitudes only in some cases. Even though the remnants of cleavage politics remain in Finland, with conflicts based on native language and type of residential area best fulfilling the cleavage criteria, the threefold cleavage does not serve to describe the whole complex set of political conflicts. Since Finland has had an archetypical status as a system of cleavage-based party support, further elaborations on cleavages are needed to understand the complexity of present conflict structures in any established Western democracy.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Pages (from-to)277–300
    JournalScandinavian Political Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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