“Cleavage Identities in Voters’ Own Words: Harnessing Open-Ended Survey Responses”

Fundamental transformations of underlying cleavage structures in advanced democracies should become evident in new collective identities. This paper uses quantitative text analysis to investigate how voters describe their in-groups and out-groups in open-ended survey responses. I look at Switzerland, a paradigmatic case of electoral realignment along a ‘second’, universalism-particularism dimension of politics opposing the far right and the new left. Keyness statistics and a semi-supervised document scaling method (latent semantic scaling) serve to identify terms associated with the poles of this divide in voters’ responses, and hence to measure universalist/particularist identities. Based on voters’ own words, the results support the idea of collective identities consolidating an emerging cleavage: voters’ identity descriptions relate to far right versus new left support, to known socio-structural and attitudinal correlates of the universalism-particularism divide, and they reveal how groups opposed on this dimension antagonistically demarcate themselves from each other.