The Prussian three-class system of franchise disadvantaged median voters and led to over-representation of the upper and middle classes: the economic elite. Using hand-collected novel data on individual-level roll call votes from parliamentary minutes of the Prussian House of Representatives during the period 1867 to 1903, we compute ideal points of MPs measuring political ideology. We find that voting behavior can be classified into two dimensions: a ‘liberal-conservative’ dimension and a ‘secular-religious’ dimension which together correctly predict 96% of roll call votes. Linking estimated ideal points with biographical information of MPs and with constituency-level variables, we analyze the driving forces of the Prussian political economy during a period of fundamental changes towards capitalism, secularization, and from liberalism to protectionism. We find different forms of inequality to be associated with competing political ideologies casting a more nuanced light on the three-class system of franchise.
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