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Silja Häusermann (University of Zurich): Electoral realignment and Social Policy Positions of Social Democratic Parties

Academic & Research
The CEU Campus
Wednesday, January 20, 2016, 11:00 am – 12:40 pm

The Political Economy Research Group (PERG) cordially invite you to the opening guest lecture of the Winter term

Electoral realignment and Social Policy Positions of Social Democratic Parties

Silja Häusermann

University of Zurich
CEU, Oktober 6 utca nr 7, Room 102Wednesday January 20 - 2016, 11.00-12.40

This lecture is based on a forthcoming publication.

Socio-structural change has led to profound shifts in the composition of party constituencies. The most striking electoral realignment consists in specific parts of the middle class becoming the paramount electoral basis for Social Democracy, a development that implies the potential of transforming welfare politics profoundly. However, most of the welfare state literature neglects this fundamental electoral transformation when theorizing the changing role of Social Democracy and welfare politics. In this paper, I start by tracing the electoral realignment of social democratic voter constituencies in cross-national comparison over time on the basis of Eurobarometer and ESS data. I then analyze the relationship between voter realignment and the policy stances of social democratic parties in Europe on the basis of manifesto data, which allow for a longitudinal analysis of constituencies as determinants of policy positions. I also test for the conditioning effect of party competition on the link between voter realignment and policy positions. The last part of the analysis explores the implications of electoral realignment for alliance potentials in welfare reforms in six countries strongly affected by electoral realignment (A, DK, D, UK, CH, NL). I find that the shift to middle class electoral constituencies among social democratic parties is correlated with a shift in their position towards new politics issues (multiculturalism) on the one hand and – in terms of social policy - an increased support for social investment (education). However, the policy shift of Social Democratic parties towards social investment does not generally correlate with a withdrawal from traditional social policy issues (redistribution). Rather, social democratic parties’ positions on redistributive social policy depend on the presence of a right-wing populist competitor working class votes: in countries with a right-wing populist competitor, social democratic parties have remained more strongly pro-redistribution than in countries with a centripetal dynamic of party competition. The analysis of alliance potentials shows that “middle class Social Democracy” has become the pivotal party in welfare politics: it may side with right-wing middle class parties in the support of social investment and/or with other left parties in support of redistribution.

Silja Häusermann is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, where she teaches classes on Swiss politics, comparative political economy, comparative politics and welfare state research. Her research interests are in comparative politics and comparative political economy. More specifically, her current work deals with electoral and party system change and their impact on distributive policies in advanced post-industrial democracies; with the impact of the crisis on electoral and protest behavior; with the dualization of welfare states and labor markets; with changing conflict dimensions in distributive politics and with the sources of welfare state support in post-industrial societies.

Read more about  Silja Häusermann on her web page, here.