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Beating Social Democracy on Its Own Turf: Issue Convergence as Winning Formula for the Centre-Right in Universal Welfare States

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  • Christoph Arndt, Denmark
Recent elections yielded sweeping majorities for the centre-right in Scandinavia with a decade of pure centre-right majorities in Denmark and the longest sitting centre-right coalition in Sweden for decades. This is a blind spot in the issue voting literature, which would not expect centre-right parties to flourish in contexts where welfare issues have a natural salience as in the case of universal welfare states. In contrast, Scandinavian universal welfare states ought to benefit social democracy when it comes to issue voting on welfare issues. It is argued in this article that centre-right parties can beat social democrats by credibly converging to its social democratic opponent on issues of universal welfare. Issue ownership voting to the benefit of centre-right parties will then be strongest among voters perceiving the centre-right to have converged to social democracy and perceiving the centre-right as issue-owner. Using Danish National Election Studies, 1998–2007, the article shows that the Danish Liberal Party outperformed the Social Democrats on traditional welfare issues among those voters perceiving the Liberals to be ideologically close to the social democrats. The findings help us to understand why centre-right parties have recently turned into serious competitors on social democracy's turf: the universal welfare state
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Political Studies
Pages (from-to)149–170
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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