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Christopher Raymond and Brian M Barros Feltch, "Parties, cleavages and issue evolution: The case of the religious-secular cleavage in Chile," Party Politics, 20 (May 2014), 429-443. [Available at ]

First paragraph:
Recent scholarship on electoral behaviour in Chile has arrived at contradictory findings regarding the effect of religiosity on individuals' political behaviour. Conventional wisdom contends that religion has long been the cornerstone of Chilean party politics (Huneeus, 2003; Scully, 1992, 1995;Walker, 2003). Torcal and Mainwaring (2003: 68), however, claimthat after controlling for regime preference religiosity no longer plays a significant role in structuring the party system. Instead, they contend that the most salient cleavage in Chilean politics today divides those supportive of democracy from those who still hold emotive ties to the Pinochet regime (on this point, see also Tironi and Agu¨ero, 1999; Tironi, 2002). Recent works by Alvarez and Katz (2009) and Bonilla et al. (2011) have reached similar conclusions regarding religiosity. In response, Valenzuela et al. (2007) have shown that the religious-secular cleavage remains a strong predictor of left-right ideology when using a more comprehensive measure of religiosity. While they find that religiosity is not a significant predictor of vote choice for the two major electoral coalitions - Alianza por Chile (now Coalición por el Cambio, and hereafter referred to as the Alliance) and Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia (hereafter Concertación) - attitudes toward divorce remain significant, with those opposed to divorce supporting the Alliance and those more sympathetic to divorce supporting Concertaión.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Party perceptions on three issues of morality (2008).
Table 2. Logistic regression estimates of identification with Concertación (1) versus the Alliance (0).
Table 3. The effect of attitudes toward divorce on identification between Concertación (1) and the Alliance (0).
Table 4. The effect religiosity on identification with Concertación (1) versus the Alliance (0), controlling for regime preferences (2009).
Appendix. Descriptive statistics.

Last Paragraph:
The argument put forth here, based on the theories of issue evolution and conflict extension, provides an explanation that may resolve the debate between those like Torcal and Mainwaring (2003) and Valenzuela et al. (2007), and therefore may resolve the dispute within social cleavage theory regarding the roles of parties and the electorate. A re-evaluation of the Chilean case from an issue evolution perspective shows that the agency of political parties is essential to understanding which cleavages emerge (as those like Torcal and Mainwaring contend), but that party systems ultimately reflect the social cleavage structure of society (as those like Valenzuela et al. counter), thereby constraining the choices available to parties as to which cleavages - social or political - they may elect to create and represent. Although arguments rooted in the notion of party agency contradict the part of the Lipset and Rokkan freezing hypothesis that predicts sustained patterns of social group support for the same parties over time, what remains truly frozen are the issues rooted in prominent social group identities: whether represented by one party or another, these issues remain permanent features of electoral politics. This shows that by appealing to issue evolution and conflict extension, social cleavage explanations are able to incorporate the valuable insights regarding party competition provided by those like Torcal and Mainwaring, but in ways that are in keeping with the original understandings of social cleavage theory.

Last updated April 2014