The Danish Voter
Democratic Ideals and Challenges
Rune Stubager, Kasper M. Hansen, Michael S. Lewis-Beck, and Richard Nadeau
Inside the politics of an idealized democracy
To many international experts, politicians, and commentators, Denmark stands out as an ideal society with a well-functioning welfare state, low levels of corruption, and a high degree of social and political stability. Like other countries, however, Denmark faces challenges brought on by overall social changes. Particularly the challenges of maintaining a prosperous economy and the growing number of immigrants from different ethnic and religious backgrounds have left their mark on Danish society over the past 50 years. But how have Danish voters reacted to these challenges?
In order to understand the foundation of the Danish ideal, the authors analyze voter behavior from the early 1970s until 2019. The Danish Voter investigates a series of interesting questions concerning voters’ reactions to the two macrosocial challenges—and how these reactions impact the foundations for the ideal. The individual chapters consider how the challenges have weakened the traditional class cleavage while giving rise to new divisions based on gender and education. They also show how electoral polarization on economic redistribution has remained strong even in spite of depolarization in the parties’ positions on this dimension. On cultural issues like immigration, however, the challenge of diversity has resulted in a dramatic increase in polarization among both parties and voters. By investigating the drivers of political trust, the authors show how voters respond to enacted policies.
The Danish Voter holds important insights for readers interested in the politics of Western Europe where countries face similar challenges. Indeed, due to an electoral system open to new influences, the Danish case is an important test case for theories about political development of contemporary Western societies.
Rune Stubager is Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University.
Kasper M. Hansen is Professor of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen.
Michael S. Lewis-Beck is F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa.
Richard Nadeau is Professor of Political Science at the University of Montreal.
Praise / Awards
“This is outstanding political science. The authors integrate all of the existing literature on voting behavior to guide their empirical analyses, which effectively describe and explain the Danish voter and situate her in comparative context. The book thus is enlightening not only about what has happened—and is happening—in Denmark, but also around the world. I highly recommend it.”
—Christopher Wlezien, University of Texas at Austin
“A splendid portrait, expertly drawn from a wealth of electoral surveys, of voters in one of the most enduring democracies. Danish politics has found a way to navigate the treacherous currents of the culture war, especially immigration. The Danish Voter offers a recipe of electoral success for left-leaning parties in an age when populist appeals hold ever-growing sway in new and old democracies.”
—Helmut Norpoth, Stony Brook University
“This excellent book is a polished, contemporary analysis that combines insights from two classic approaches: The American Voter and the European tradition of cleavage research. Making expert use of Danish election surveys covering almost half a century up to 2019, the authors identify the rising electoral importance of gender, education and immigration, as class divisions decline, reflecting the increasing importance of cultural over economic issues for voters’ political choices. They relate these developments to two challenges facing Denmark and many other Western societies: the challenge of prosperity resulting from evolving economic conditions, and the challenge of diversity brought on by the increasing presence of immigrants from very different cultures. They end by considering whether the 2019 election and the Social Democrats’ move to the right on immigration is a turning point allowing economically left-wing voters who want stricter immigration controls to resolve this crucial trade-off in their political preferences. Although much of the very accessibly presented analysis focuses on the evolution of voters’ preferences, the authors’ central conclusion is that the future well-being of the Danish political ideal rests, to a considerable extent, on the actions of the political parties. If parties fail to successfully channel voters’ concerns, those voters are likely to lose their high levels of trust in politicians, and the effectiveness of the Denmark’s democracy would ultimately be undermined.”
—Geoffrey Evans, University of Oxford
“The authors have written a lucid and highly informative analysis of electoral choice in Denmark. The Danish Voter is essential reading for understanding the forces—old and new—that shape party support and election outcomes in one of the world’s premier social democracies. Well done!”
—Harold Clarke, Ashbel Smith Professor, University of Texas at Dallas
“The world around, Denmark is held as a prime example of a well-functioning society: prosperous, egalitarian, trustworthy, and resilient. What is the secret? Leveraging rich trove of election studies data over nearly 50 years, the authors of The Danish Voter tell the story of how voters and parties in this small country have adapted to macrosocial changes—originating from within and outside—to confront the challenges of rising diversity in a developed welfare state.”
—Timothy Hellwig, Indiana University
“A timely, authoritative and crystal clear insight into the experience of the Danish political system increasingly joining other countries undergoing democratic strain, through growing second-dimension politics, volatility and polarisation. The book details the unique features in Denmark but offers an explanation of value also far beyond the Danish case.”
—Jane Green, University of Oxford
“[The Danish Voter] gives a very thorough description of voting behavior in Denmark and is a valuable source for anyone interested in comparative voting behavior. For scholars of European voting behavior it is a must-read.”
—Mikael Persson, University of Gothenburg
“The Danish Voter is at the same time a well-written, readily accessible, state-of-the-art, in-depth case study of decades of electoral change in one of the Scandinavian welfare states. [. . .] The authors do a great job applying a well-known analytic framework to the Danish case, providing an effective starting point for students and researchers who need an introduction to the study of societal and political change in Denmark.”
—Henrik Ekengren Oscarsson, University of Gothenburg
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