Marc Debus, Jale Tosun, Marcel Maxeiner
Parties and their positions on entrepreneurship over time: Does the historical legacy of a political system matter or is economic problem pressure the decisive factor?

SASE 27th Annual Conference, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, 14. Juli 2015

Economic and welfare policies and their perception by citizens are crucial for the citizens’ degree of satisfaction with political institutions in modern democracies. In this paper, we focus on one specific area of economic policy – the support for entrepreneurship to overcome youth unemployment – and argue that political parties take not only the economic conditions into account when framing entrepreneurship and when developing a position on that particular issue, but also consider the preferences of their potential voters regarding entrepreneurship. We test our hypotheses on the basis of a content analysis of election manifestos and coalition agreements of Western and Eastern German state parties in the time period between 1990 and 2014. Focussing on the German case since unification allows for comparing electorates socialised in a market economy in the West German states and in a socialist economy in Eastern Germany by holding the institutional setting constant. The results support our hypothesis that a higher degree of problem pressure increases the saliency of entrepreneurship policy. However, there are still differences between parties: Christian democratic and liberal parties stress entrepreneurship policy in their manifestos more than green and socialist parties. Moreover, in West Germany the policy positions on entrepreneurship policy are in line with the party positions on the standard left-right dimension, while the policy positions of parties acting in East Germany follow a different pattern.