Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2014
The aim of this article is to account for the differences in electoral support for social democratic parties in Scandinavia in recent years. The main argument put forward is that the relative success of the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP) in preserving voter support compared to the major decline for both the Danish and Norwegian social democrats should be understood by focusing on two factors, both related to the phenomenon of issue-voting. We argue that the relative success of the SAP must been seen in light of the way in which traditional political issues, like employment and social welfare, have continued to dominate Swedish political debates, whereas in Norway and Denmark, new political issues, particularly immigration, have sailed up the political agenda and paved the way for new right-wing parties which attract social democratic voters. Secondly, we believe that one issue in particular, that of the future of the welfare state, is important for preserving social democratic support. Therefore, it is also relevant that the Swedish Social Democratic Party appears to have been more successful than social democratic parties in the neighbouring countries in convincing voters that it is the party best suited to preserve the existing welfare system.
2 See for instance G. Esping-Andersen, Politics Against Markets, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1985; F. G. Castles, The Social Democratic Image of Society, London, Routledge, 1978.
3 We put somewhat more emphasis on the Swedish case as the political developments here have been different from the two other cases.
5 See n. 2 above; A. Przeworski and J. Sprague, Paper Stones: a History of Electoral Socialism, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1986; Pontusson, J., ‘Explaining the Decline of European Social Democracy. The Role of Structural Economic Change’, World Politics, 47: 4 (1995), pp. 495–533 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
6 Kitschelt, H., ‘Class Structure and Social Democratic Party Strategy’, British Journal of Poltiical Science, 23: 2 (1993), pp. 299–337 CrossRefGoogle ScholarH. Kitschelt, The Transformation of European Social Democracy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994; H. Kitschelt, ‘European Social Democracy between Political Economy and Electoral Competition’, in H. Kitschelt et al. (eds), Continuity and Change in Contemporary Capitalism, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 317–45.
7 H. Kitschelt, The Transformation of European Social Democracy, op. cit.
8 All data for the figures on the electoral support for social democratic and other parties have been taken from Sundberg, J., ‘The Enduring Scandinavian Party System’, Scandinavian Political Studies, 22: 3 (1999), pp. 221–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar supplemented by the homepages of the parliaments in the three countries.
9 See n. 8 above for sources.
11 J. G. Andersen et al., ‘The Legitimacy of the Nordic Welfare States: Trends, Variations and Cleavages’, in M. Kautto et al. (eds), Nordic Social Policy. Changing Welfare States, London, Routledge, 1999, pp. 235–61; S. Svallfors and P. Taylor-Gooby (eds), The End of the Welfare State?: Responses to State Retrenchment, London, Routledge, 1999.
12 O. Borre, ‘Gammel og ny venstre-højre ideologi’, in J. Andersen et al., Vælgere med omtanke, Aarhus, Systime, 1999, pp. 151–9; B. Aardal, Velgere i 90-ärene, Oslo, NKS-Forlaget, 1999.
13 O. Borre, Issue Voting, Aarhus, Aarhus University Press, 2001.
14 D. Robertson, A Theory of Party Competition, London, Wiley, 1976; I. Budge and D. Farlie, ‘Party Competition – Selective Emphasis or Direct Confrontation? An Alternative View with Data’, in H. Daalder and P. Mair (eds), West European Party Systems. Continuity & Change, London, Sage Publications, 1983, pp. 267–305.
17 G. Esping-Andersen, Politics Against Markets, op. cit.
22 H. Valen, ‘The Storting Election of 1989’, op. cit.
23 H. Valen, B. Aardal and G. Vogt, Endring og Kontinuitet. Stortingsvalget 1989, Oslo, Statisk Sentralbyrä, 1990, p. 17.
24 B. Aardal and H. Valen, Konflikt og Opinion, Oslo, NKS-forlaget, 1995.
26 H. Valen, ‘Norway, the Storting Election of September 12, 2001’, Electoral Studies, 22: 1 (2003), pp. 179–85; B. Aardal (ed.), Velgere i vilrede, Oslo, N. W. Damm & Søn, 2003, pp. 7–30 and 241–8.
27 M. N. Pedersen, ‘The Defeat of All Parties. The Danish Folketing Election, 1973’, in K. Lawson and P. H. Merkl (eds), When Parties Fail, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1988, pp. 257–81.
28 P. Nannestad, Danish Design or British Disease?, Aarhus, Aarhus University Press, 1991.
29 P. Nannestad and C. Green-Pedersen, ‘Keep the Bumblebee Flying: Economic Policy in the Welfare State of Denmark, 1973–1999’, in E. Albæk et al. (eds), Managing the Danish Welfare State under Pressure: Towards a Theory of the Dilemmas of the Welfare State, Aarhus, Aarhus University Press, forthcoming.
31 J. G. Andersen, ‘Hvad kan partierne. Partiernes kompetence-image’, in J. Andersen et al. (eds), Vælgere med omtanke, op. cit., pp. 137–50; 142–4.
33 O. Borre, ‘Belønnes regeringen?’, in J. Elklit and O. Tonsgaard (eds), To folketingsvalg, Aarhus, Politica, 1989, pp. 291–303.
34 See n. 30 above: P. Nannestad and C. Green-Pedersen, ‘Keep the Bumblebee Flying’, op. cit.
35 See n. 32 above: J. G. Andersen, ‘Hvad kan partierne’, op. cit.
36 O. Borre and J. G. Andersen, Voting and Political Attitudes in Denmark, Aarhus, Aarhus University Press, 1997, pp. 86–92.
38 H. J. Nielsen, ‘Op til valget’, in J. Andersen et al. (eds), Vælgere med omtanke, op. cit., pp. 29–37.
39 See n. 37 above: J. G. Andersen, ‘The Danish General Election 2001’, op. cit.; Andersen, J. G., ‘Operationen lykkedes, men lægen døde. Socialdemokratiets kriser fra Krag til Lykketoft’, Politica, 35: 4 (2003), pp. 413–32Google ScholarO. Borre and J. G. Andersen (eds), Politisk forandring: værdipolitik og nye skillelinjer. 2001 valget i perspektiv, Aarhus, Systime, 2004.
40 This figure applies also to white collar workers.
41 For good overviews of this period, see for example L. Schön, Omvandling och obalans, Stockholm, Fritzes, 1994, and A. Martin, ‘The Politics of Macroeconomic Policy and Wage Negotiations in Sweden’, in T. Iversen, J. Pontusson and D. Soskice (eds), Unions, Employers and Central Banks, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 232–64.
42 K.-O. Feldt, Alla dessa dagar. I regeringen 1982–1990, Stockholm, Nordstedt, 1991.
43 A. Häkansson, ‘Det socialdemokratiska valnederlaget och utvecklingen mot “dealignment” i Sverige’, in B. Burulf and B. Fryklund (eds), Det Politiska missnöjets Sverige, Lund, Lund University Press, 1994, pp. 7–40.
44 See n. 43 above.
45 M. Brenner and T. Bundgaard Vaad, ‘Sweden and Denmark. Defending the Welfare State’, in F. Scharpf and V. Schmidt (eds), Welfare and Work in the Open Economy. Volume II. Diverse Responses to Common Challenges, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 399–466.
46 L. Nilsson, ‘Offentlig sektor och privatisering 1986–1996’, in S. Holmberg and L. Weibull (eds), Ett missnöjt folk?, SOM- rapport nr 18, Gothenburg, SOM instituttet, 1997, pp. 103–5.
50 As shown above, the EU has caused troubles for the Norwegian Social Democrats, but is not the explanation for decline at the two latest elections. The issue of refugees and immigrants has mainly popped up in connection with local elections where it has benefited the Progress Party; T. Bjørklund and J. G. Andersen, ‘Radical Right-Wing Populism in Scandinavia: from Tax Revolt to Neo-liberalism and Xenophobia’, in P. Hainsworth (ed.), The Politics of the Extreme Right, London, Pinter, 2000, pp. 193–220.
51 H. Oscarsson, ‘Svenska folkets partikartor’, in Holmberg and Weibull, Mitt i nittio-talet. op. cit., pp. 291–313.
52 S. Holmberg, Välja part, Stockholm, Samhälle, Norstedts Juridik, 2000, pp. 138–48.
54 G. Esping-Andersen, Politics against Markets, op. cit.
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