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The Rise and Fall of Social Democracy, 1918-2017


  • Nicola Mastrorocco

    (Department of Economics, Trinity College Dublin)

  • Simon Hix

    (London School of Economics)

  • Giacomo Benedetto

    (Royal Holloway London)


We describe the electoral history of one of Europe's most successful party families over the past 100 years in 31 countries. With a unique and newly collected dataset of national election results, and a large number of economic and social variables measured for each country-election observation, we find that two main factors drive the electoral performance of social democratic parties: public sector spending, and the size of the manufacturing sector. We investigate these results further with an analysis of individual-level voting behaviour, using the European Social Surveys from 2002 to 2016. Together, our findings suggest that most of the fall in support for social democratic parties in recent years is correlated with a decline in the number of industrial workers as well as a reduction in the propensity of social democratic parties' core supporters (industrial workers and public sector employees) to vote for them.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicola Mastrorocco & Simon Hix & Giacomo Benedetto, 2019. "The Rise and Fall of Social Democracy, 1918-2017," Trinity Economics Papers tep0520, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2020.
  • Handle: RePEc:tcd:tcduee:tep0520

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Katrin Oesingmann, 2017. "Youth Unemployment in Europe," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 15(01), pages 52-55, April.
    2. repec:ces:ifodic:v:15:y:2017:i:1:p:19307504 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Joël Hellier, 2021. "Globalization, Income Tax and the Redistribution–Progressivity Tradeoff," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 63(3), pages 384-410, September.
    2. Gabriele Gratton & Barton E. Lee, 2020. "Liberty, Security, and Accountability: The Rise and Fall of Illiberal Democracies," Discussion Papers 2020-13a, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.

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    More about this item


    Social Democracy; Elections; Political economy;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • H72 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Budget and Expenditures

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