Are social democratic parties insider parties? Electoral strategies of social democratic parties in Western Europe in the age of dualization

  • Hanna Schwander
Original Article


The article 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. By contrast, I argue that they also target outsiders by promoting policies that facilitate the integration of outsiders into the labour market and enhance their social protection. There are two reasons that make outsiders electorally attractive for social democratic parties: first, the share of outsiders has been growing strongly, while the share of insiders has been decreasing. As a consequence, social democratic parties cannot hope to win elections solely on the basis of their insider constituency. Second, outsiders are not as politically inactive as the original insider–outsider literature suggests which makes them electorally more attractive to social democratic parties. To analyse the electoral strategies of social democratic parties, I rely on original data on party statements as reported in newspapers during election campaigns between 2007 and 2010 in four continental European countries (Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands). The evidence clearly suggests that social democratic parties are no insider parties but propose policies in the interests of outsiders.


Social democracy Inequality Electoral mobilization Labour market dualization Insider–outsider divides 


  1. Anderson, C.J., and P. Beramendi. 2012. Left Parties, Poor Voters and Electoral Participation in Advanced Industrial Societies. Comparative Political Studies 45: 714–846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arndt, C. 2014. Social Democracy’s Mobilization of New Constituencies. The Role of Electoral Systems. Party Politics 20: 778–790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bale, T., C. Green-Pedersen, A. Krouwel, K.R. Luther, and N. Sitter. 2010. If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them? Explaining Social Democratic Responses to the Challenge from the Populist Radical Right in Western Europe. Political Studies 58: 410–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bélanger, É., and B.M. Meguid. 2008. Issue Salience, Issue Ownership, and Issue-Based Vote Choice. Electoral Studies 27: 477–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benoit, K., and M. Laver. 2006. Party Policy in Modern Democracies. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Bonoli, G. 2013. Origins of Active Social Policy: Labour Market and Childcare Polices in a Comparative Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bormann, N.-C., and M. Golder. 2013. Democratic Electoral Systems around the World, 1946–2011. Electoral Studies 32: 360–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bornschier, S. 2010. Cleavage Politics and the Populist Right: The New Cultural Conflict in Western Europe. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bürgisser, R., and T. Kurer. 2016. Inert and Insignificant? On the Electoral Relevance of Labor Market Outsiders. Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Swiss Political Science Association in Basel, Switzerland, January 2122, 2016.Google Scholar
  10. Burgoon, B., and F. Dekker. 2010. Flexible Employment, Economic Insecurity and Social Policy Preferences in Europe. Journal of European Social Policy 20: 126–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clegg, D. 2007. Continental Drift: On Unemployment Policy Change in Bismarckian Welfare States. Social Policy & Administration 41: 597–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dalton, R.J., and M. Wattenberg. 2000. Parties Without Partisans. Political Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Dixit, A., and J. Londregan. 1998. Ideology, Tactics, and Efficiency in Redistributive Politics. Quarterly Journal of Economics 113: 497–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dolezal, M. 2010. Exploring the Stabilization of a Political Force: The Social and Attitudinal Basis of Green Parties in the Age of Globalization. West European Politics 33: 534–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dolezal, M., L. Ennser-Jedenastik, W.C. Müller, and A.K. Winkler. 2014. How Parties Compete for Votes: A Test of Saliency Theory. European Journal of Political Research 53: 57–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Downs, A. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper and Brothers.Google Scholar
  17. Emmenegger, P. 2009. Barriers to Entry: Insider/Outsider Politics and the Determinants of Job Security Regulations. Journal of European Social Policy 19: 131–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Emmenegger, P., S. Häusermann, B. Palier, and M. Seeleib-Kaiser. 2012. How We Grow Unequal. In The Age of Dualization. The Changing Face of Inequality in Deindustrializing Societies, ed. P. Emmenegger, S. Häusermann, B. Palier, and M. Seeleib-Kaiser, 3–26. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Emmenegger, P., P. Marx, and D. Schraff. 2015. Labour Market Disadvantage, Political Orientations and Voting: How Adverse Labour Market Experiences Translate into Electoral Behaviour. Socio-economic Review 13: 189–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Esping-Andersen, G. 1990. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Esping-Andersen, G. 1999. Politics Without Class: Postindustrial Cleavages in Europe and America. In Continuity and Change in Contemporary Capitalism, ed. H. Kitschelt, P. Lange, G. Marks, and J.D. Stephens, 293–316. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gingrich, J., and S. Häusermann. 2015. The Decline of the Working-Class Vote, the Reconfiguration of the Welfare Support Coalition and Consequences for the Welfare State. Journal of European Social Policy 25: 50–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Goos, M., and A. Manning. 2007. Lousy and Lovely Jobs: The Rising Polarization of Work in Britain. Review of Economics and Statistics 89: 118–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Green-Pedersen, C. 2002. Politics of Justification. Party Competition and Welfare-State Retrenchment in Denmark and the Netherlands from 1982 to 1998. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Green-Pedersen, C., and K. van Kersbergen. 2002. The Politics of the ‘Third Way’: The Transformation of Social Democracy in Denmark and the Netherlands. Party Politics 8: 507–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Häusermann, S. 2010. The Politics of Welfare State Reform in Continental Europe: Modernization in Hard Times. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Häusermann, S., T. Kurer, and H. Schwander. 2014. High-Skilled Outsiders? Labor Market Vulnerability, Education and Welfare State Preferences. Socio-economic Review. Advanced Access, August 19, 2014.Google Scholar
  28. Häusermann, S., T. Kurer, and H. Schwander. 2016. Sharing the Risk? Households, Labor Market Vulnerability and Social Policy Preferences in Western Europe. Journal of Politics 78: 1045–1046o.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Häusermann, S., and H. Schwander. 2012. Varieties of Dualization? Labor Market Segmentation and Insider–Outsider Divides across Regimes. In The Age of Dualization. The Changing Face of Inequality in Deindustrializing Societies, ed. P. Emmenegger, S. Häusermann, B. Palier, and M. Seeleib-Kaiser, 27–51. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hernández, E., and M. Ares. 2016. Evaluations of the Quality of the Representative Channel and Unequal Participation. Comparative European Politics. Scholar
  31. Hinrichs, K., and M. Jessoula. 2012. Labour Market Flexibility and Pension Reforms. Flexible Today, Secure Tomorrow?. Chippenham: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hopkin, J. 2004. Hard Choices, Mixed Incentives: Globalization, Structural Reform, and the Double Dilemma of European Socialist Parties. Mimeo London School of Economics.Google Scholar
  33. Huber, E., and J.D. Stephens. 2001. Development and Crisis of the Welfare State. Parties and Policies in Global Markets. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hübscher, E. 2016. Party Governments, Clientelistic Reforms, and Varying Levels of Political Constraints. Comparative European Politics 15 (6): 848–871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Iversen, T., and D. Soskice. 2015. Democratic Limits to Redistribution: Inclusionary Versus Exclusionary Coalitions in the Knowledge Economy. World Politics 67: 185–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kalleberg, A.L., B.F. Reskin, and K. Hudson. 2000. Bad Jobs in America: Standard and Non-standard Employment Relations and Job Quality in the United States. American Sociological Review 65: 256–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Karreth, J., J.T. Polk, and C.S. Allen. 2013. Catchall or Catch and Release? The Electoral Consequences of Social Democratic Parties’ March to the Middle in Western Europe. Comparative Political Studies 46: 791–822.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kitschelt, H. 1994. The Transformation of the European Social Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kleinnijenhuis, J., and P. Pennings. 2001. Measurements of Party Positions on the Basis of Party Programmes, Media Coverage and Voters Perception. In Estimating the Policy Position of Political Actors, ed. M. Laver, 162–182. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. Klingemann, H.-D., R. Hofferbert, and I. Budge. 1994. Parties, Policies and Democracy. Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
  41. Kriesi, H. 1998. The Transformation of Cleavages Politics. The 1997 Rokkan Stein Lecture. European Journal of Political Research 33: 165–185.Google Scholar
  42. Kriesi, H. 2012. The Political Consequences of the Financial and Economic Crisis in Europe: Electoral Punishment and Popular Protest. Swiss Political Science Review 18 (4): 518–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kriesi, H., E. Grande, R. Lachat, M. Dolezal, S. Bornschier, and T. Frey. 2008. West European Politics in the Age of Globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lindbeck, A., and D.J. Snower. 1988. The Insider–Outsider Theory of Employment and Unemployment. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  45. Lindvall, J., and D. Rueda. 2014. The Insider–Outsider Dilemma. British Journal of Political Science 44: 460–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Marx, P. 2014. Labour Market Risks and Political Preferences: The Case of Temporary Employment. European Journal of Political Research 53: 136–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Marx, P. 2016. The Insider–Outsider Divide and Economic Voting: Testing a New Theory with German Electoral Data. Socio-economic Review 14: 97–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Marx, P., and G. Picot. 2013. The Party Preferences of Atypical Workers in Germany. Journal of European Social Policy 23: 164–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. OECD. 2014. Employment Outlook 2014. Paris: OECD.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. OECD. 2015. In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All. OCED: OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  51. Oesch, D. 2006. Redrawing the Class Map. Stratification and Institutions in Britain, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  52. Oesch, D. 2015. Occupational Structure and Labour Market Change in Western Europe Since 1990. In The Politics of Advanced Capitalism, ed. P. Beramendi, S. Häusermann, H. Kitschelt, and H. Kriesi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Palier, B., and K.A. Thelen. 2010. Institutionalizing Dualism: Complementaries and Change in France and Germany. Politics & Societies 38: 119–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Petrocik, J.R., W.L. Benoit, and G.J. Hansen. 2003. Issue Ownership and Presidential Campaigning, 1952–2000. Political Science Quarterly 118: 599–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Picot, G., and I. Menéndez. 2017. Political Parties and Non-standard Employment: An Analysis of France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Socio-economic Review. Advanced Articles.Google Scholar
  56. Piore, M.J. 1980. An Economic Approach. In Dualism and Discontinuity in Industrial Societies, ed. S. Berger, and M.J. Piore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Plougmann, P. 2003. Internationalisation and the Labour Market in the European Union. In Changing Labour Markets, Welfare Policies and Citizenship, ed. J.G. Andersen, and P.H. Jensen, 15–38. The Policy Press.Google Scholar
  58. Polavieja, J.G. 2006. The Incidence of Temporary Employment in Advanced Economies: Why is Spain Different? European Sociological Review 22: 61–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Rehm, P. 2009. Risks and Redistribution. Comparative Political Studies 42: 855–881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rehm, P. 2011. Social Policy by Popular Demands. World Politics 63: 271–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Ross, F. 2000. ‘Beyond Left and Right’: The New Partisan Politics of Welfare. Governance: An International Journal of Policy and Administration 13: 155–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rovny, J., and A.E. Rovny. 2017. Outsiders at the Ballot Box: Operationalizations and Political Consequences of the Insider–Outsider Dualism. Socio-economic Review. Advance Access published January 10, 2017.Google Scholar
  63. Rueda, D. 2005. Insider–Outsider Politics in Industrialized Democracies: The Challenge to Social Democratic Parties. American Policial Science Review 99: 61–74.Google Scholar
  64. Rueda, D. 2006. Social Democracy and Active Labour-Market Policies: Insiders, Outsiders and the Politics of Employment Protection. British Journal of Political Science 36: 385–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rueda, D. 2007. Social Democracy Inside Out. Partisanship and Labor Market Policy in Industrialized Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Rueda, D., and J. Pontusson. 2000. Wage Inequality and Varieties of Capitalism. World Politics 52: 350–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Saint Paul, G. 1996. Voting for Jobs: Policy Persistence and Unemployment. Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), Discussion Paper Series 1428.Google Scholar
  68. Saint-Paul, G. 2002. The Political Economy of Employment Protection. Journal of Political Economy 110: 672–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Schumacher, G., B. Vis, and K. van Kersbergen. 2013. Political Parties’ Welfare Image, Electoral Punishment and Welfare State Retrenchment. Comparative European Politics 11: 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Schwander, H. 2017. Dualization of the Welfare State and Its Impact on Inequality in Labor Market Risk. In Welfare State Transformations in the 21st Century: Effects on Social, Economic and Political Inequality in OECD Countries, ed. M. Wulfgramm, T. Bieber, and S. Leibfried. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.Google Scholar
  71. Schwander, H. 2018. Labor Market Vulnerability Among the Middle Class—A New Divide. Political Science Research and Methods. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  72. Schwander, H., and S. Häusermann. 2013. Who’s in and Who’s Out? A Risk-Based Conceptualisation of Insiders and Outsiders. Journal of European Social Policy 23: 248–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Schwander, H., and P. Manow. 2017. ‘Modernize and Die’? German Social Democracy and the Electoral Consequences of the Agenda 2010. Socio-Economic Review 15: 117–134. Scholar
  74. Sperber, N. 2010. Three Million Trotskyists? Explaining Extreme Left Voting in France in the 2002 Presidential Election. European Journal of Political Research 49: 359–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. van Kersbergen, K. 1995. Social Capitalism. A Study of Christian Democracy and the Welfare State. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Vlandas, T. 2013. Mixing Apples with Oranges? Partisanship and Active Labour Market Policies in Europe. Journal of European Social Policy 23: 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Vlandas, T. 2015. ‘And Then There Was Not One’: Status, Occupation and Ideology as Determinants of Labour Market Policy Preferences. unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  78. Walter, S. 2017. Globalization and the Demand-Side of Politics: How Globalization Shapes Labor Market Risk Perceptions and Policy Preferences. Political Science Research and Methods 5: 55–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hertie School of GovernanceBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations