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Catch-All or Catch and Release? The Electoral Consequences of Social Democratic Par- ties’ March to the Middle in Western Europe.

Journal article
Authors Johannes Karreth
Jonathan Polk
Christopher S. Allen
Published in Comparative Political Studies
Volume 46
Issue 7
Pages 791-822
ISSN 0010-4140
Publication year 2013
Published at Centre for European Research (CERGU)
Department of Political Science
Pages 791-822
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1177/0010414012463885
Keywords political parties, party positions, public opinion, neoliberal convergence, social democracy, institutions, historical institutionalism
Subject categories Political Science

Abstract

Although the move to the center of many European Social Democratic parties in the 1990s was first rewarded with victories, these parties have since faced a remarkable electoral drought. What explains the seeming inability of these catchall parties to cast a wider but sustainable net for voters? Incorporating a temporal dimension helps explain when and why the broadening of party platforms fails and produces counterintuitive electoral outcomes. Our empirical study analyzes the votes of individuals in three European countries in the past three decades. The individual level allows us to track changes in parties’ voter structures, which are necessarily omitted from studies using aggregate vote shares. Our findings indicate that current analyses of the electoral effects of strategy shifts are misleading inasmuch as they fail to account for individual-level motivations for vote switching.

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