Abstract

“‘Down-to-Earth Citizens’ versus ‘Socially-Minded Cosmopolitans’: Studying Emerging Collective Identities Using Open-Ended Survey Responses”

How does political polarization between the new left and the far right figure in how voters think about a changing society and their place in it? This paper uses quantitative text analysis to investigate how Swiss voters describe their in-groups and out- groups in open-ended survey responses. I focus on identities underpinning a ‘second’, universalism-particularism dimension of politics (where new left and far right parties occupy the poles). A semi-supervised document scaling method–latent semantic scaling–serves to 1) identify terms associated with the poles of this divide in voters’ identity descriptions and 2) measure individuals’ universalist versus particularist identities. These identities underpin new left versus far right party support, and they appear socio-structurally rooted in educational and urban-rural divides. Moreover, the specific content of voters’ identity descriptions supports the idea that the universalism-particularism divide is emerging as a fully-fledged ‘cleavage’ durably linking socio-structural and political divides through antagonistic collective identities.