Elff, Martin and Sigrid Roßteutscher. 2011. “Stability or Decline? Class, Religion and the Vote in Germany”. German Politics 20(1): 111-131.


This article looks at the development of the relation between social divisions and voting in Germany in the Bundestag elections after German unification. Considering the data from German electoral studies since 1994, it examines how social class impinged on support for the Social Democrats and for the post-communist PDS/Left and how church attendance and religious denomination affects the tendency to vote for Christian Democrats. It seems that it is much too early to write off the electoral relevance of social cleavages. The ‘core constituencies’ of cleavage-based parties have anything but disappeared and still show marked differences in voting patterns. In addition there are striking east–west differences in the patterns of electoral behaviour, especially regarding support for the post-communists. There is some, though not overwhelming, evidence of change in the social patterns of voting. But these changes hardly justify the elimination of the concept of social cleavages from electoral research. Instead, the results are consistent with the view that the politicisation of social cleavages depends on parties’ appropriate mobilisation strategies and policies.