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André Freire, "Party Polarization and Citizens' Left-Right Orientations," Party Politics, 14 (March, 2008), 189-209.

First paragraph:
Since the French Revolution, the notion of a left-right divide has gained importance in modern mass politics. In the early 1980s, Laponce (1981: 56) viewed the idea as a type of 'political Esperanto', and since then the left- right political cleavage has functioned as: a schema classifying ideologies, i.e. as a device by which parties' and candidates' political orientations and policy proposals are categorized; a communication code between politicians, the mass media and citizens; and an instrument helping electors cope with the complexities of the political universe and arrive at political decisions. There is considerable evidence to suggest that there is little empirical support for the 'end of ideology' thesis, and, particularly at the individual level, that the left-right divide is still a very important information-economizing device enabling electors to cope with political complexities, at least in Western Europe (Franklin et al., 1992; Freire, 2006a, b; Gunther and Montero, 2001)

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Explaining left-right self-placement in 1990 (I) (OLS regressions)
Table 2. Explaining left-right self-placement in 1990 (II) (OLS regressions)
Table 3. Explaining left-right self-placement in 1999 (I) (OLS regressions)
Table 4. Explaining left-right self-placement in 1999 (II) (OLS regressions)
Table 5. Party polarization and citizens' left-right orientations, 1990
Table 6. Party polarization and citizens' left-right orientations, 1999
Appendix: Operational Definition of Concepts Used

Next to Last paragraph:
In explaining the differences between countries, two main conclusions can be derived from our analysis. First, although in the new south European democracies citizens exhibit lower levels of recognition of the left-right scale (1976-2002), vis-à-vis the older democracies in Western Europe, in terms of the levels of social, value and partisan anchoring of individuals' left-right attitudes there are no systematic differences between old and new democracies. Second, our data reveal that what best explains countries' variations in left-right total anchoring is ideological polarization at the party system level, and that these effects are quite strong. Moreover, these results are fairly robust because they were arrived at both by aggregate data analysis (Freire, 2006a), plus alternative measures of party polarization, and by a multi-level approach (present article), but future research should expand the set of countries under analysis. The multi-level approach revealed that the factors that interact more clearly with party polarization are socio-economic values and party loyalties. As already mentioned, previous studies attempting to explain countries' differences in the level of anchoring in citizens' left-right attitudes used only aggregate data analysis, and only one of them (Freire, 2006a) considered party polarization as an explanatory factor

Last update March 2008