Marc Debus
Unfulfilled Promises? German Social Democrats and their Policy Positions at Federal and State Level between 1994 and 2006

Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 2008: 18, issue 2, pp. 201-224
ISSN: 1745-7289

From day one, the German red-green coalition government was under high pressure in the electoral arena. Previous analyses of voting behaviour showed that mainly traditional supporters refused to vote for the Social Democrats due to their lack of left-wing profile on economic issues, which was manifested by reforms implemented in economic and welfare policy. This paper argues that the SPD adopts a leftist position on economic policy issues in order to address its core voter clientele. The analysis of voter policy positions, federal and state party election manifestos as well as coalition agreements between 1994 and 2006 shows that there is empirical evidence for this expectation. Social groups affiliated with the SPD prefer a left-wing profile of the party. When participating in government, however, Social Democrats implement a more liberal economic policy than originally promised before elections. This is expected to lead to a further alienation of the core voter clientele from the SPD.