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Publication Detail
Is ideological polarisation by age group growing in Europe?
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
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  • Journal:
    European Journal of Political Research
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  • Keywords:
    age, Europe, generations, ideology, polarisation
  • Notes:
    © 2022 The Authors. European Journal of Political Research published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Consortium for Political Research. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Prominent theories claim that young Europeans are increasingly socialist as well as divided from their elders on non-economic issues. This paper asks whether age-based polarisation is really growing in Europe, using new estimates of the ideological positions of different age groups in 27 European countries across four issue domains from 1981 to 2018. The young in Europe turn out to be relatively libertarian: more socially liberal than the old in most countries but also more opposed to taxation and government spending. These age divides are not growing either: today's differences over social issues and immigration are similar in size to the 1980s, and if anything are starting to fall. Analysis of birth cohorts points to persistent cohort effects and period effects as the explanation for these patterns; there is little evidence that European cohorts become uniformly more right-wing or left-wing with age. Hence age-based polarisation need not be a permanent or natural feature of European politics but is dependent on the changing social, political and economic climate.
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