World Political Cleavages
And Inequality Database
The book
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 to have come with the emergence of new divides over identity and integration? News analysts, scholars, and citizens interested in exploring those questions inevitably lack relevant data, in particular the kinds of data that establish historical and international context. Political Cleavages and Social Inequalities provides the missing empirical background, collecting and examining a treasure trove of information on the dynamics of polarization in modern democracies.

The chapters draw on a unique set of surveys conducted between 1948 and 2020 in fifty countries on five continents, analyzing the links between voters’ political preferences and socioeconomic characteristics, such as income, education, wealth, occupation, religion, ethnicity, age, and gender. This analysis sheds new light on how political movements succeed in coalescing multiple interests and identities in contemporary democracies. It also helps us understand the conditions under which conflicts over inequality become politically salient, as well as the similarities and constraints of voters supporting ethnonationalist politicians like Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Marine Le Pen, and Donald Trump.
The project
The World Political Cleavages and Inequality Database (WPID) is the result of a collaborative research program involving about twenty researchers all around the world. The central aim is to provide open and convenient access to the most extensive available dataset on the structure of political cleavages and social inequalities in electoral democracies, located on the five continents, from the mid-20th century to the present.

The database relies on a quasi-unique source: electoral surveys conducted in a number of countries that have organized plural elections since the end of World War II. These surveys, carried out on representative samples of generally a few thousand voters, most often in the days or weeks following the corresponding election, have collected information on both respondents’ electoral behaviors and their socioeconomic characteristics. In spite of their imperfections, they constitute one of the most precious sources at our disposal to study the relationships between the structure of political cleavages and social inequalities. The electoral surveys have been harmonized in such a way as to document in a systematic manner how electoral choices vary according to social attributes such as income, education, occupation, gender, age, national origin, or ethnoreligious identity.

We hope first and foremost that this database will contribute to inspire further research on these questions among the social sciences research community, and will allow journalists and other interested citizens to better understand the interaction between political cleavages and social inequalities in comparative and historical perspective.

Political Cleavages and Social Inequalities Featured in the Guardian
August 5, 2021 | The Guardian
How politics became a contest dominated by two kinds of elite: studying hundreds of elections, we found that political parties increasingly cater to only the well educated and the rich. Continue reading
Political Cleavages and Social Inequalities Featured in the Economist
May 29, 2021 | The Economist
Brahmins v merchants: educated voters’ leftward shift is surprisingly old and international. The Economist summarizes the main results of Amory Gethin, Clara Martínez-Toledano, and Thomas Piketty' paper on the evolution of political cleavages in Western democracies since the end of World War II. Continue reading
Democracy and the Politicization of Inequality in Brazil, 1989-2018
March 5, 2021 | Working Paper
In this paper, Amory Gethin and Marc Morgan analyse the transformation of electoral cleavages in Brazil since 1989 using a novel assembly of electoral surveys. Brazilian political history since redemocratization is largely a history of the rise and fall of the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT). The authors show that the election of Lula da Silva as President in 2002, followed by the implementation of redistributive policies by successive PT governments, was at the origin of marked socioeconomic cleavages... Continue reading
Political Cleavages in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, 1963-2019
February 11, 2021 | Working Paper
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... Continue reading
Website created in 2021
Web development, Design, Visualisation:
Aliquidstudio (Benjamin Grillet)
World Inequality Lab, Imperial College London Business School, Columbia Business School