The Electoral Appeal of Party Strategies in Post-industrial Societies: when can the Mainstream Left succeed?
Existing empirical work has found only weak evidence that parties can influence their electoral success through their policy positions. We argue that this is because this work has insufficiently reflected real-world political conflicts and the role of important intermediaries in transmitting information. We examine the policy positions and electoral success of mainstream left parties, which have been faced with fundamental social changes affecting core voter groups and with a shift in political conflicts towards cultural topics. We argue that: (1) mainstream left parties can gain votes by taking up more investment-oriented policy positions if they (2) also take up liberal socio-cultural positions and (3) do not face opposition from influential unions. We find support for these expectations using aggregate-level election results and individual-level survey responses. Our findings have implications for our understanding of party success in advanced industrial democracies and for empirical models of party competition more generally.