1 Department of Political Science, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 Department of Political Science, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
A comparative analysis of Third Way welfare reforms and their electoral repercussions
The electoral hazard of welfare state reforms in mature welfare states has been a widely acknowledged feedback effect in the literature. However, the literature does typically no distinct between party families when it comes to the electoral consequences of welfare state reforms and treats electorates as unity. This paper analysis the feedback effects of social policy retrenchment under Third Way social democracy since 1994. The paper argues that Third Way reforms resulted in lasting electoral setback for social democracy since these reforms went against the social policy preferences of social democracy’s core constituency. Using survey data and election studies, the empirical analysis shows that the reforms have been particularly unpopular among social democracy’s core constituency and that these voters now align with competitors that defend core welfare schemes in a credible manner. The restructuring of mature Western welfare states thus accounts for changing patterns of political behaviour as a consequence of policy feedback.