Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 20, Issue 3

Hila Federer-Shtayer and Michael F Meffert, "The block-weighted cleavage salience index," Party Politics, 20 (May 2014), 324-329. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol20/issue3/ ]

First paragraph:
For a long time, parties have formed along (and expressed) fundamental socio-economic, religious and cultural cleavages in society, and offered a source of identification for voters. Even if their importance might have declined over time, cleavages have enduring power and tend to change rather slowly. The importance of different cleavages differs from country to country. In order to capture the strength of a cleavage,Bartolini and Mair (1990) proposed the cleavage salience index (CS) based on the aggregate electoral volatility across the cleavage line, the latter defined by all the parties that constitute and represent a particular cleavage. Volatility refers to the shift of votes across the cleavage line from one election to the next. The CS index is closely related to other aggregate indices, such as the total volatility index (TV), the sumof all the percentage point changes of all parties between two successive elections, divided by two(Pedersen, 1979, 1983).While these aggregate indices lack in subtlety and depth - they are agnostic to the specific and particular reasons why some parties are more successful than others - their crucial advantage is that they can be calculated based on aggregate election results. This information is readily available for extended time periods, especially when individual-level data for more fine-grained analyses are simply not available.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Composition of party blocks for class and religious cleavages in Scandinavian countries.
Figure 1. Cleavage salience (CS) index for class and religious cleavages in Scandinavia.
Table 2. Calculation of cleavage salience measures.
Figure 2. Block-weighted cleavage salience (WCS) index for class and religious cleavages in scandinavia.

Last Paragraph:
The essence of politics is a conflict of conflicts where divisions compete against each other in order to dominate the political arena (Schattschneider, 1960: 63; see also Mair, 1997b: 950-1, Pellikaan et al., 2007). While a cleavage might be defined as an association between social groups and party vote, we follow Bartolini and Mair (1990) and Schattschneider (1960) in defining a cleavage as a line of conflict whose strength can be measured in terms of electoral mobility (or lack thereof). The WCS index captures the logic of this definition very well. As additional illustration of the WCS performances, we provide further data about class and religious cleavages in 11 European multiparty systems from 1950 to 2010 in an online appendix (TV, CS and WCS scores for all election years). The WCS can be used for any cleavage or any fundamental issue dimension in any party system and at any time, making direct comparisons possible, especially when individual level survey data are not available. It can be employed for capturing stability and change in electoral behaviour using widely accessible aggregate data.

Last updated April 2014