The geographic evolution of political cleavages in Switzerland: A network approach to assessing levels and dynamics of polarization between local populations

Scholarly studies and common accounts of national politics enjoy pointing out the resilience of ideological divides among populations. Building on the image of political cleavages and geographic polarization, the regionalization of politics has become a truism across Northern democracies. Left unquestioned, this geography plays a central role in shaping electoral and referendum campaigns. In Europe and North America, observers identify recurring patterns dividing local populations during national votes. While much research describes those patterns in relation to ethnicity, religious affiliation, historic legacy and party affiliation, current approaches in political research lack the capacity to measure their evolution over time or other vote subsets. This article introduces “Dyadic Agreement Modeling” (DyAM), a transdisciplinary method to assess the evolution of geographic cleavages in vote outcomes by implementing a metric of agreement/disagreement through Network Analysis. Unlike existing approaches, DyAM offers a stable measure for political agreement and disagreement—accounting for chance, statistically robust and remaining structurally independent from the number of entries and missing data. The method opens up to a range of statistical, structural and visual tools specific to Network Analysis and its usage across disciplines. In order to illustrate DyAM, I use more than 680,000 municipal outcomes from Swiss federal popular votes and assess the evolution of political cleavages across local populations since 1981. Results suggest that political congruence between Swiss local populations increased in the last forty years, while regional political factions and linguistic alignments have lost their salience to new divides. I discuss how choices about input parameters and data subsets nuance findings, and consider confounding factors that may influence conclusions over the dynamic equilibrium of national politics and the strengthening effect of globalization on democratic institutions.

Publié dans:
PLoS One
Nov 29 2018

 Notice créée le 2018-11-26, modifiée le 2018-12-03

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