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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Are Social Democratic Parties Insider Parties? Electoral strategies of Social Democratic Parties in Western Europe

Hanna Schwander
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Hanna Schwander
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

The paper analyses the electoral strategies of social democratic parties in the context of increased and new inequalities among its electorate. The literature on the politics of dualization argues that social democratic parties are essentially insider-parties pursuing social policies in favor of their traditional core constituency, the insiders. By contrast, I argue that they address the interests of the contested segments of their electorate during the electoral campaign while at the same time providing the ground for economic prosperity. With this electoral strategy, they aim to mobilize a larger electoral coalition. I show that social democratic parties aim for a welfare state based on the logic of social investment as this allows to combine outsider policies and an effective labor market at the same time. The second argument of the article addresses the composition of the social democratic electoral coalition: I show that social democratic parties aim to mobilize an electoral coalition that includes low-skilled insiders and outsiders as well high-skilled insiders and outsiders – depending on the electoral incentives set by the party configuration. To analyze the electoral strategies of social democratic parties, I rely on newly collected data, derived from a coding of party statements as reported in newspapers during the election campaign between 2007-2010 in six West European countries (Britain, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland).
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