This article examines the continuing importance of the left–right dimension for voting behavior in Western Europe. We test the extent to which economic internationalization may affect the capacity of this dimension to structure party preferences. We explore two dimensions of internationalization, long-term openness and short-term changes, assessing, respectively, the impact of international trade and foreign investments on voters’ preference formation.
To study the influence of changing context, we use four waves of the European Election Study (1999, 2004, 2009, and 2014). We show that openness to international economic exchanges tends to weaken the left–right cleavage. At the same time, long-term economic openness appears to soften the impact of short-term shocks for the relevance of left–right politics.
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