The heuristic value of the left-right schema in East Asia

Willy Jou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The semantics of left and right provide an efficient heuristic to understand and organize political information. Most studies on the left-right schema have focused on established democracies, but the anchoring function that it serves for party systems may be particularly relevant in new democracies where partisanship has not taken root. This article investigates the heuristic value of left and right in East Asian democracies by examining survey data from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Data from Australia and New Zealand are also included for comparative purposes. These countries offer useful contrasts for hypotheses testing because they cover a wide range of democratic experiences and party-system stabilization. The following questions will be addressed: (1) Are publics in East Asian democracies familiar with the left-right dimension? (2) Can the publics locate the positions of political parties and consistently rank them on the left-right spectrum? (3) To what extent do the publics' left-right self-placements affect their party preference? Left- right cognition, consistency of party rankings, and correlations between self-placements and attitudes toward parties for each of the six cases are presented and discussed in detail. Similarities and differences between older and newer democracies in patterns of cognition and party ranking are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-394
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Political Science Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Japan
  • Left-right schema
  • New Zealand
  • Party preference
  • Philippines
  • Polarization
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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