Political similarities and differences are often described in terms of left and right. However, while scholars have long focused on their substantive policy content, ideological labels also serve largely as symbolic identifiers of political groups. We investigate how the contextual variation in what left and right mean relates to the way that citizens perceive party ideological positions in European countries. We discuss the impact of categorization, a basic cognitive process where people organize reality by classifying objects into groups based on some relevant characteristics. We argue that when left and right strongly reflect symbolic group attachments, citizens tend to accentuate their perceived similarity to parties in their own ideological camp, and difference from parties in the opposite ideological camp. Using data from the European Election Study 2009, we provide empirical evidence of the latter process. We conclude that taking into account the categorical function of left-right provides important insights to understand political perceptions and polarization.

Left-Right Categorization and Perceptions of Party Ideologies

Vegetti, F.
First
;
2019-01-01

Abstract

Political similarities and differences are often described in terms of left and right. However, while scholars have long focused on their substantive policy content, ideological labels also serve largely as symbolic identifiers of political groups. We investigate how the contextual variation in what left and right mean relates to the way that citizens perceive party ideological positions in European countries. We discuss the impact of categorization, a basic cognitive process where people organize reality by classifying objects into groups based on some relevant characteristics. We argue that when left and right strongly reflect symbolic group attachments, citizens tend to accentuate their perceived similarity to parties in their own ideological camp, and difference from parties in the opposite ideological camp. Using data from the European Election Study 2009, we provide empirical evidence of the latter process. We conclude that taking into account the categorical function of left-right provides important insights to understand political perceptions and polarization.
2019
41
1
257
280
Left and right; Ideology; Categorization; Perception
Vegetti, F.; Sirinic, D.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2318/1888483
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