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Guest chronicle: The Social Democrats on the rise again

Politics | 2012-03-31 | 7 comments
Henrik Lindberg, argues that Sweden is mentally still a ´Social Democratic´ country rather than liberal or conservative and that this is the main factor behind the rising support for the Social Democratic party. Sociological data demonstrates that attitudes in Sweden are quite stable over time, with mainly a strong public support for the welfare state. Henrik Lindberg is researcher at the Ratio Institute.


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Sometimes only two months may look like an eternity: As in Swedish politics of today. The common sense by then was that the Social Democrats was doomed to lose another election and possibly could fall down to levels of around 20 percent. The chairmanship of Håkan Juholt was full of gaffes in just about each and every policy field.

Well, that was two months ago. Right now their new chairman Stefan Löfvén is gaining ground just about everywhere. Voters come from the Conservatives, the Left party, the Green party and it seems that the Social Democrats again has established their position as number one in Swedish politics.

Among both bloggers and the Twitter community as well as the old media the ruling coalition Government has been on the defensive during the last months. The arms deal scandal that toppled Minister of Defence Sten Tolgfors was just one of many minor and major backlashes that have hurt the Government. The consolation may lie in the fact that the Parliamentary election is more than two years away.

An explanation to this surge in opinion may be that the brand and party Social Democrats, although weakened, is still very strong in Sweden. Firstly, party members still matters and a year ago the Social Democrats had almost twice as many members (106.000), as the Conservatives (60.000). Despite the fact that party members are not as important today, they still play a vital role in mobilizing potential sympathizers.

Secondly and perhaps more important, Sweden is still mentally more Social Democratic than Liberal, or for that part Conservative. A sign of that is the fact that the welfare state still has a broad support in Sweden. Issues concerning equality and fairness as (more) equal outcome are stronger in Sweden than in many other European countries.

Data by Stefan Svallfors, professor of Sociology in Umeå, confirms that the support for the welfare state has been maintained, despite (or perhaps thanks to) the incremental changes that has occurred in the 1990s and 2000s. Overall, there is a large degree of stability in attitudes, and where change is registered, it tends to be increasing support. More people state their willingness to pay higher taxes for welfare policy purposes and more people want collective financing of welfare policies.

One may argue that the Liberals and Conservatives may have a fair share in creating the characteristics of the welfare state in the early 1900s, but it is seldom disputed that the party that is identified with and identifies with the welfare state and welfare policies in Sweden is the Social Democrats.

Henrik Lindberg

Henrik Lindberg has a PhD in economic history and is today a researcher at the Ratio Institute.

Readers' comments

2012-04-12 18:11 KARL-ZWOLLE wrote:
We need of honest and caring people to lead our nations , not the markets ghost !
2012-04-12 01:57 VanKopius wrote:
Olof Palme took Sweden in a perfect state from 1973 to 1986 : the one example of what one nation got to be but the masonic globalist banksters killed him because of the swedish model , one example to destroy for the new world order of Uncle Sam and NATO friends , as we know well .
2012-04-11 21:38 Robin wrote:
Kick them out in 2 years time.The road these neo-cons lead society down is one of inequality, unfairness and division. Britain elected a neo-con government on a manifesto of lies. £9 000 a year uni fees. Privitisation of the health service. Social security cuts. Education cuts and tax cuts for the richest. Save yourselves from deregulated CRAPitilism next time you have the chance Sweden.
2012-04-11 20:30 Laurence F Almond wrote:
You don´t have a conservative party. You have no concept of the meaning of conservative. You live in a world were conservative = something bad. You just fill in the blanks with your fantasies. Now I will tell you what a real conservative party believes in: Liberty, Freedom and property rights. In other words it believes in People, not some utopian fantasy that has failed in the past, is failing now, and will fail in the future.
2012-04-10 19:08 superpippa90 wrote:
Power to the people and out of our way the burocrats !!! ))
2012-04-10 17:00 Mats wrote:
Interesting thoughts. But wait until the quarrels start between the Social Democrats and the Left Party and Greens on nuclear power and the euro...and taxes and sickness benefits...and so on. Then Löfven might get into several traps like Sahlin did in 2010.
2012-04-05 16:22 Eliza wrote:
I believe that the rising support of Social Democrats is a positive light for Sweden, as compared to the neoliberal shift in the past 20 years. Social Democracy has seemed to be a great success for the nation.


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