The Broken Promise of Postmaterialism? Analysing Western European Parties’ Emphases Through Manifesto Data (1990-2019)
The scholarly debate on the materialist/postmaterialist issue dimension mainly focuses on the demand-side of electoral politics, often asserting the well-known Inglehartian value-change thesis. This paper instead turns to the often neglected supply-side, by empirically analysing the electoral offer of Western European political parties in first-order elections between 1990 and 2019. It relies on Manifesto Project (MARPOR) data about electoral manifestos, to answer the research question surrounding if parties put greater emphasis on materialist or postmaterialist issues. Specifically, it aggregates MARPOR categories in theoretically-informed scores of materialism and postmaterialism to allow for cross-country and cross-time comparisons. In doing so, it empirically demonstrates that parties emphasise materialist questions significantly more than postmaterialist ones, throughout the entire timeframe. Such finding is robust to various spatial and temporal checks, as well as several alternative aggregation specifications. Moreover, a detailed instantiation is presented with reference to the typical case of Italy. The presented results disconfirm postmaterialist arguments on the supply-side of electoral politics within the selected context of analysis, corroborating and extending in time previous work that went in this direction. This article contributes to the literature on electoral and issue politics, potentially opening up important research avenues.
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