How States Create Electoral Cleavages Through Policies


Where do electoral cleavages come from? My dissertation develops and tests a theory that electoral cleavages can emerge endogenously based on the demand from voters in response to government policies. Decisions like how to distribute resources and who can have social mobility politicize social identities when they divide the electorate into winners and losers based on those same identities. Government policies link the fates of losers from polices and create powerful incentives to coordinate around the politicized identities. Political entrepreneurs, who identify the potential for a new coalition of voters, organize around those identities. To control for reverse causality between government policies and policy preferences, the theory is tested on cases of plausibly exogenous government policies in Prussia, Baden, Bavaria, and Belgium that were not responding to public pressure but to other forces. The theory is substantiated with both process-tracing and statistical analysis of new datasets. The dissertation contributes to the scholarship about electoral cleavages by proposing that cleavages can emerge based on popular demand from voters in response to government policies.