Trade-offs of social democratic party strategies in a pluralized issue space: a conjoint analysis

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Political parties in Europe compete in a pluralized issue space. In combination with the ongoing socio-structural realignment of party electorates, this pluralization has been argued to entail several strategic trade-offs, especially for Social Democratic parties, whose electoral support has been dwindling over the past decades. In particular, Social Democratic parties may face sharp trade-offs when it comes to addressing working class vs. new middle class voters, as well as young vs. elderly voters.

However, existing data sources do not allow researchers to identify the extent to which these different potential sub-electorates indeed respond positively or negatively to particular programmatic appeals, and whether their distinctive preference profiles are complementary
or antagonistic. In order to identify the nature and extent of strategic trade-offs social democratic parties face, we fielded conjoint experiments in 6
Western European countries (AT, CH, DE, DK, ES, SE) in which respondents can choose between social democratic programs that vary on a number of issue dimensions. We find that overall more economically leftwing and socially progressive positions gain more support among the potential electorate of social democratic parties. Trade-offs between socio-economic groups are less pronounced than one might expect from the literature.