febrero 11, 2021
Autor: WID.world

Political Cleavages and Class Structures in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand

Political Cleavages, Class Structures and the Politics of Old and New Minorities in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand 1963-2019


In this paper, Amory Gethin studies the transformation of political cleavages in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand since the 1960s. In all three countries, higher-educated voters have become increasingly supportive of labor, social democratic, liberal, and green parties, while high-income voters have remained more likely to vote for conservative forces, leading to the emergence of “multi-elite party systems” comparable to that found in other Western democracies. Nonetheless, nativist cleavages remain more limited in these democracies than in Western Europe, as illustrated by the only moderate support of immigrants and new minorities for left-wing and liberal parties.


Key results

  • Class cleavages have weakened significantly in Australia and New Zealand, driven by the rise of green parties and the decline of support for labor parties among the working class.
  • All three countries have gradually transitioned from “class-based” to “multi-elite” party systems: higher-educated voters are now more likely to vote for left-wing and liberal parties, while top-income voters continue to support conservative forces.
  • Nativist divides are lower in these three countries than in Europe: non-Western immigrants are not significantly more likely to support the left than natives. Muslim voters stand out as an exception: as in other Western democracies, they massively support left-wing and liberal parties.


The figure shows the relative support of top-income and highest-educated voters for the New Zealand Labour Party, the Green Party, and other left-wing parties. In the 1970s-1980s, top-income and highest-educated voters were less likely to vote for left-wing parties than low-income and lower-educated voters. The left-wing vote has gradually become associated with higher-educated voters, giving rise to a “multi-elite party system”.



Amory Gethin (Paris School of Economics, World Inequality Lab): Amory.gethin@psemail.eu

Media inquiries

Olivia Ronsain: olivia.ronsain@wid.world; +33 7 63 91 81 68




The author is grateful to Jennifer Curtin, Gary Marks, Clara Martínez-Toledano, and Thomas Piketty for their useful comments and advices.