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Lost Connection? The Representativeness of the Social Democratic Elites and their Rank and File in Flanders

Elites
Representation
Party Systems
Political Ideology
Voting Behaviour
Chris Gaasendam
University of Leuven
Koen Abts
University of Leuven
Chris Gaasendam
University of Leuven
Bart Meuleman
University of Leuven
Marc SWYNGEDOUW
University of Leuven

Abstract

Introduction Social democracy is witnessing an electoral crisis. In this paper we link the electoral crisis of social democracy to the literature about the crisis of party democracy. We will investigate one specific linkage which is said to be affected by the crisis of party democracy: the representative linkage, i.e. the degree to which the party represents its electorate, both in terms of social characteristics and in terms of attitudes. We analyze the descriptive and attitudinal representativeness of the party leaders of the Flemish social democratic party (sp.a) compared to their members, voters, ex-voters and all other voters. We claim that there is a crisis of representativeness: the sp.a does not represent its rank and file and electorate well in terms of structural characteristics and in terms of opinion attitudes. We will test several hypotheses to verify this claim. Data We use unique data from the Party Members and Representatives Survey (2008), that provides the data for the party leaders (N=944) and party leaders (N=994), pooled with the Flemish data from the Belgian National Election Study (2007) (N=1129). The former was deliberately conducted with measurements equivalent to the latter. We have a range of available social characteristics and attitudes – related to egalitarianism, welfare state critique, ethnocentrism, law and order, the environment, and ethical progressiveness. Methods We will test our hypotheses regarding the descriptive representativeness of the party leaders using descriptive statistics and means comparisons. We will provide a preliminary analysis of a range of attitudes by means of a descriptive analysis. Since it is known that the social democratic party consists of (at least) two different subgroups, we will analyze these attitudes using Latent Class Analysis (LCA). This way we can analyze if certain ideological profiles are underrepresented or overrepresented among party leaders.