Skip to main content

Socio-spatial differentiation in Metropolitan areas and its political consequences: Comparing Metropolises in new and old member states of enlarged European Union

Final Activity Report Summary - IMOPROJECT (Socio-Spatial Differentiation in Metropolitan Areas and Its Political Consequences: Comparing Metropolises in New and Old Member States ...)

The objective of the project was to study the development of the socio-spatial differences among and within the metropolitan areas in the post-communist Central-east Europe (CEE), as well as its relations to the political behaviour of the population.

The research results proved that, while development in the CEE generally followed 'global' trends, some features of the CEE remained specific. The suburban municipalities tended to vary substantially in terms of their physical structures and socioeconomic structure of their population. Many of the types identified in CEE, such as affluent residential communities, were quite comparable to those located in the most developed countries. Other suburban types, e.g. university centres, were missing in the CEE, while some specific suburban types, such as working class industrial edge cities, existed as a product of specific development during the communist period.

In general, the suburban municipalities in the CEE were still poorer, on average, than the core cities despite the observed increase of their social status. The scope of the suburbanisation was still relatively limited. What were the political consequences of the development in the metropolitan areas in the CEE?

The results of the analyses proved that municipal population size seemed to be one of the few universal factors that explained differences in electoral turnout in all possible cultural and socioeconomic contexts. In simple terms, population living in smaller municipalities tended to have higher electoral turnout than population living in the large ones. This was true for both municipal elections, where one could expect higher turnout in small municipalities because of voters' better knowledge of the local politicians in comparison to the parliamentary elections where the above mentioned factor would be irrelevant. It was possible that participation in the local elections made people in small municipalities used to vote and such 'voting habits' would then also work in case of national elections. Tighter social control considering voting 'the civic duty' might prevent some of the inhabitants of small communities from voting abstention. Only if the size of the municipality was controlled could the socioeconomic hypothesis stating that electoral turnout rose with the increase of the social status be confirmed on the municipal level.

Therefore, overall effects of suburbanisation on the electoral participation in the CEE were hardly to generalise. Suburban municipalities tended to have higher voting turnout than the core cities so far, their small population size being considered as the main explanatory factor. The further migration of the more educated and richer from core cities to suburbs was anticipated to increase the population size and would probably alter the existing social structures. This might lead to a decrease of electoral turnout but would also increase the share of inhabitants with higher social status, which might in turn decrease the turnout as well. In any case, the voting turnout in the core cities seemed to decline substantially.

As far as the party preferences were concerned, this research showed that the development in metropolises in CEE did not differ substantially from the one observed in the most developed countries. Rich suburban communities, municipalities with highly educated population and the higher share of the self-employed voted more often in favour of the parties of the right. On the other hand, the poor suburbs tended to vote more for both traditional left and new right.

Home ownership in CEE, however, did not increase the propensity of voting for right parties. The explanation was historical, since to be a homeowner did not necessarily mean to be rich. Part of the suburban home owners were in fact relatively poor people who used to live in the villages surrounding the largest cities even before any signs of 'modern' suburban development appeared. The results of local elections showed the decreasing role of party voting and the rise of independent non-partisan politicians in the local politics, namely in small communities.