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One major example of cross-cutting cleavages can be seen in rural America. There, you see working class whites whose tendency to side with the Republican Party on social values is cross-cut by their dislike of certain Republican economic policies.
This group of voters is overwhelmingly conservative on issues like abortion, gay marriage and crime. This aligns them well with the Republican Party. That is one cleavage -- it separates them from cultural liberals in the cities.
At the same time, however, people like these tend to dislike the Republicans' free trade policies and their policies that tend to favor big businesses. These are people who often think that big business is out to crush the little guy. This cleavage cross cuts with the previous one because it separates these potential Republicans from the more wealthy Republicans who like the pro-big business policies.
A cross-cutting cleavage occurs when members that are on the same cleavage, or division in society (according to race, gender, ethnicity, geographic background, religion, etc.), occur in different groups. An example of cross-cutting cleavage is that members of the same ethnic group (such as Mexican-Americans) live in both the Northeast and the West in the United States. Another example is that members of a group, such as African-Americans, are represented among both people with higher socio-economic status and people with lower socio-economic status. The opposite of cross-cutting cleavages is reinforcing cleavages; an example of a reinforcing cleavage is if all members of an ethnic group live in the same geographic area or are members of the same socio-economic group. Political scientists believe cross-cutting cleavages are a method to reduce conflict in society, as members of one group must unite along different lines. In other words, cross-cutting cleavages can allow members of different groups to work together to find common ground.
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