Several recent articles have reached different conclusions regarding the impact of the religious–secular cleavage in Chile. The resolution of this debate has important consequences for the understanding of cleavages. Studies subscribing to the view that parties have considerable agency in the maintenance of cleavages have found that religiosity no longer affects vote choice, while studies rooted in a sociological perspective argue that religiosity still matters. We show that the reason for the discrepant results is because a partisan realignment is underway, whereby religious voters are gradually shifting their loyalties from the parties of the left to the parties of the right, matching a division that has taken place at the elite level. These results are consistent with an issue evolution perspective, which provides a clearer articulation of how cleavages form than either the agency or the sociological approaches.
- issue evolution
- party systems