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Oddbjørn Knutsen, "The Strength of the Partisan Component of Left-Right Identity: A Comparative Longitudinal Study of Left-Right Party Polarization in Eight West European Countries," Party Politics, 4 (January 1998), 5-31.

First Paragraph:
Left-right semantics is a central dimension in politics, at the elite level as well as at the level of the mass public. Among the mass public, abstract concepts like 'left' and 'right' can be seen as instruments that people may use to orient themselves in a complex political world. The left-right schema functions as a generalized mechanism for understanding what is going on in the political realm, helping to reduce the complexity of the world of politics. For individuals it has primarily orientation functions, and for the political system communication functions. It can be used to summarize the programmes of political parties and groups, and to label the important political issues of a given era. The left-right schema is thus a taxonomic system, an efficient way of understanding, ordering and storing political information (Inglehart and Klingemann, 1976: 244-4; Fuchs and Klingemann, 1990: 205).

Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Percentage of respondents indicating a party choice over time
Table 2: Strength of the partisan component over time measured by standardized measures (eta-coefficients and R2)
Table 3: Standard deviations on the left-right self-placement scale over time
Figure 1: Strength of the partisan component over time by Taylor and Herman's measure, including those without a party choice
Figure 2: Strength of the partisan component over time by Taylor and Hernan's measure, excluding those without a party choice
Table 4: Changes in the partisan component according to Taylor and Hernan's measure and Huber's measure
Figure 3: The strength of the partisan component over time by Huber's measure, including those without party choice
Figure 4: The strength of the partisan component over time by Huber's measure, excluding those without party choice
Table 5: Strength of the partisan component for the whole period
Table 6: Average changes in partisan component according to different measures
Table 7: Average left-right placement of party voters

Last Paragraph:
In conclusion, then, it is the changing left-right location of voters for the larger established parties in the party system that accounts for most of the change in the partisan component. Smaller established parties and new parties play a secondary role in most countries. On average, this analysis has shown that party voters define themselves as closer to the centre over time. This is particularly the case for voters of the larger established parties in Belgium, France, Italy and the Netherlands.