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European Party Competition and New Strategies under Societal Turbulence

In Europe, non-economic political issues are seen as secondary, but significant, sources of political competition. There is, however, disagreement about the extent to which these issues form a coherent political dimension. This paper addresses the extent to which this ‘other’ dimension frames political conflict across Europe. Using expert and public opinion surveys, we first explore the content and compactness of political issues that are argued to form the non-economic dimension. We find consistent evidence across multiple data sources of systematic variance in the importance of this dimension in different European party systems. Despite the rise of new cultural issues, our results indicate that Lipset and Rokkan’s cleavage theory provides strikingly powerful predictors of the significance of the ‘other’ dimension in contemporary political competition.