February 7, 2024
Written by WID.world

Political cleavages in Greece 1981-2019

Modern Greek history has been a turbulent one. The devastation of the Civil War (1946-1949) gave way to an ‘Economic Miracle’ in the 1950s and 1960s, which ended in the last years of a military dictatorship (1967-1974). Subsequently, from maintaining one of the highest growth rates in the Eurozone (2000s), Greece plunged into the deepest crisis in the 2010s. What are the effects of economic crises on voting behaviors? What role does tertiary education play in the left-right political divide?

In this paper, Panos Tsoukalis and Nikos Stravelakis apply the political cleavage methodology to Greece. Drawing from Greek political attitudes surveys from 1981 to 2019, they construct a database to analyse of how voting is structured by different socioeconomic characteristics of voters.

Key findings

  • Greece is an exception to the trajectory of political cleavages found in other liberal Western democracies. First, Greece is the only country where an explicitly socialist left enjoyed the support of high-income voters as early as the 1990s and until the 2008 crisis.
  • Second, the Eurozone version of the 2008 crisis brought a major change in the electoral composition of the Greek left, with the emergence of a radical left party, SYRIZA, replacing the centre-left PASOK. The latter enjoyed (at least until 2023) significant support among popular classes and low-income voters.
  • Third, Greece has had a Brahmin left since 1981: left-wing parties have collectively enjoyed the support of the highly educated from early on, with no signs of reversal despite the crisis and the reconfiguration of the party system.
  • Greece therefore fits very uncomfortably into the political cleavages typology. The inclusive and redistributive role of tertiary education, together with the cultural dualism that characterizes Greek political culture, may explain why this is the case.

Appendix B is a note on the economic history of Greece from 1974 to 2023 providing context for the analysis of political cleavages in Greece.



  • Panos Tsoukalis, New School for Social Research, NY, USA
  • Nikos Stravelakis, National Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece



  • press[at]wid.world
Related articles
‘Political cleavages and social inequalities’ now available in Greek
July 4, 2024 | WID.world

Who votes for whom and why? Why has growing inequality in many parts of the world not led to renewed class-based conflicts, and seems instead ... Continue reading