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The Rise and Fall of Social Democracy, 1918–2017

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 June 2020

Royal Holloway, University of London
London School of Economics and Political Science
Trinity College Dublin
Giacomo Benedetto, Senior Lecturer in Politics and Jean Monnet Chair, Department of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy, Royal Holloway, University of London,
Simon Hix, Pro-Director (Research) and Harold Laski Professor of Political Science, Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science,
Nicola Mastrorocco, Assistant Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, Trinity College Dublin,


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. 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.

© American Political Science Association 2020

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We would like to thank Thomas Koenig and four anonymous referees for their useful comments. We would also like to thank Tarik Abou-Chadi, James Adams, Lawrence Ezrow, Chris Hanretty, Oliver Heath, Sara Hobolt, James Snyder, and Herbert Kitschelt for their comments on an earlier version of the paper and Federico Fabio Frattini, Laura Chitty, Etienne Goh, Fariba Ghazizadeh, and Eponine Howarth for research assistance. Replication material can be found on Dataverse at:


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