Defining the Political Battlefield: An Explorative Approach

Christian Ekman Elmquist & Frederik Søgaard Sørensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This study adds methodological innovation and new insights to the existing literature on political self-placement and the political left-right scale. By using data from all currently available rounds of the European Social Survey on voter behavior across twelve countries, we investigate correlations between a large range of variables and political self-placement. We use elastic net regressions to identify the most important variables in the data, which we use in various econometric models to find the significance and the direction of coefficients. First, we find that being religious and satisfied with the current state of society is highly correlated with right self-placement, while being pro-equal rights and pro-immigration is highly correlated with left self-placement in most countries. Second, we find that post-communist countries significantly deviate from other countries, indicating that these countries have yet to define the left and right of politics. Third, we find that both new and old political issues influence the political battlefield, such giving support for the pluralization theory. Fourth, we provide evidence for a modification of the modernization theory underlining that as countries develop economically, they converge in many political respects while still being distinct due to their cultural and historical heritage. Finally, we believe to be the first to document a relationship between being politically active and associating with the political left and a relationship between being satisfied with society and associating with the political right.

EducationsMSc in Applied Economics and Finance, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages201
SupervisorsLisbeth la Cour