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Bureaucratic Capacity and Class Voting: Evidence from across the World and the United States

Why do the rich and poor support different parties in some places? We argue that voting along class lines is more likely to occur where states can tax the income and assets of the wealthy. In low bureaucratic capacity states, the rich are less likely to participate in electoral politics because they have less to fear from redistributive policy. When wealthy citizens abstain from voting, politicians face a more impoverished electorate. Because politicians cannot credibly campaign on antitax platforms, they are less likely to emphasize redistribution and partisan preferences are less likely to diverge across income groups. Using cross-national survey data, we show that there is more class voting in countries with greater bureaucratic capacity. We also show that class voting and fiscal capacity were correlated in the United States in the mid-1930s when state-level revenue collection and party systems were less dependent on national economic policy.