This article, which draws on the Values studies regularly conducted in Europe, aims to compare Europeans’ political values through their positioning on a Left-Right scale, and their development between 1990 and 2008, and also to analyse the underlying values that go furthest to explaining this positioning. Raul Magni Berton begins by presenting the Left/Right split in the various countries surveyed, as it emerges from the self-positioning of individuals (or their refusal to position themselves), highlighting, among other things, the relative stability of this split in the various countries, the importance it retains in Western Europe and a mild “leftward” trend in Europe.
The author then analyses 11 value conflicts that are likely to explain the political positioning of individuals: attitude to equality, moral progressivism/conservatism, state/market, attitude to law-and-order, nationalism/universalism, solidarity/individualism, attitude to work, degree of materialism, authoritarianism/criticism, attitude to religion, and sexism/sexual equality. Drawing on the observed correlations between these values and the political positioning of individuals, Raul Magni Berton shows, among other things, that religious values are less and less predictive of political standpoints in Western Europe, whereas those relating to egalitarianism, the state and law-and-order play an increasing role. On the other hand, very few significant correlations can be seen in Eastern Europe, which shows the major importance of the –both political and historical– context, and somewhat undermines the idea that the notions of Left and Right are universal in character. This is also confirmed by the country-by-country analysis of differences proposed at the end of the article.