The classics of postwar political sociology argued that a key to understanding political divisions in democratic polities lies with membership in social groups. Much recent scholarship, however, has argued that political cleavages arising out of social group memberships have declined. This study investigates these claims, analyzing the magnitude of and interrelationship among four major social cleavages - race, religion, class, and gender - in U.S. presidential elections since 1960. We improve over dichotomous measures of religion and class and introduce statistical models that permit measurement of relative shifts in the vote choice of the core groups making up each cleavage. Our results do not support claims about the declining magnitude of social cleavages. The race cleavage has increased considerably since 1960, and the gender cleavage more modestly during this period, while the class cleavage has remained stable, and the religion cleavage has declined slightly. We find evidence of a slight increase in social group cleavages in presidential elections from 1960 through 1992. Net of change in the race cleavage, the overall social cleavage has been stable during this period.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science