The purpose of this article is to understand why the traditional pattern of a leftist working class and a rightist middle class has declined over the years in many Western countries. Two explanatory theories are put forward. The material explanation suggests that because Western countries have become richer over the years, issues tied to class conflict have become less salient while new, cultural issues of individual freedom versus order have become more salient. The second explanation, focusing on the process of secularization, suggests that cultural issues have become more salient as church membership has declined in these countries. It is studied whether the emergence of a new political culture has weakened economic voting motivations for the working class to vote left and the middle class to vote right, whereas it has strengthened cultural voting motives leading members of the working class to vote right and members of the middle class to vote left. Hypotheses are tested using party-manifesto data and World Values Survey Data. It is concluded that as societies become more secular cultural issues become more salient, causing cultural voting motives to undermine the conventional pattern of a left-wing working class and right-wing middle class.

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Centre for Rotterdam Cultural Sociology (CROCUS)
Department of Sociology

Achterberg, P. (2005). Op weg naar een nieuwe politieke cultuur : Klassen en stemgedrag in laatmoderne samenlevingen. Centre for Rotterdam Cultural Sociology (CROCUS). Retrieved from