Partisan attachment among the electorate is important for the stability of national party systems. This article argues that the level of inequality during a period of early party formation can have profound impact on political parties’ initial mobilization strategies and thus later levels of partisan attachment and electoral support among the population. An unequal distribution of agricultural land under a limited franchise decreases the incentive of parties representing rural interests to build strong local party organizations and partisan loyalty. Consequently, areas with high land inequality should show less electoral support for these parties after extension of the franchise. This theory is tested using data from early 20th century Denmark. In accordance with the theory, the Liberal Party, which represented rural interests, did poorer electorally in areas with historical high land inequality. The beneficiaries of the Liberal Party's weakness were both centrist and far-left parties as well as the extreme right.
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The author would like to thank Jacob Nyrup, Marius Radean, Jonathan Doucette, Francesc Amat, Peter Sandholt Jensen as well as seminar participants at the University of Essex, the University of Barcelona and panelists at APSA 2019 and DPSA 2019 for comments on previous versions of the article.
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