More Left or Left No More? An In-depth Analysis of Western European Social Democratic Parties’ Emphasis on Traditional Economic Left Goals (1944–2021)

To cite the article:

Trastulli F (2022) More Left or Left No More? An In-depth Analysis of Western European Social Democratic Parties’ Emphasis on Traditional Economic Left Goals (1944–2021). Front. Polit. Sci. 4:873948. doi: 10.3389/fpos.2022.873948.

The article is open access and can be accessed here.


The ideological evolution of Western European social democratic parties has received considerable scholarly attention over the decades. The most widespread view concerns the alleged programmatic moderation and convergence with the mainstream right of this party family. However, recent empirical investigations based on electoral manifestos come to different conclusions, highlighting an increase over time in Western European social democratic parties’ emphasis on traditional economic left goals, especially in recent years. Hence, this article analyses the evolution of the social democratic programmatic outlook with regard to traditional economic left issues. It does so by relying on Manifesto Project (MARPOR) data about such formations in 369 general elections across 20 Western European countries between 1944 and 2021, employing different indicators of economic left emphasis and time to ensure the robustness of the findings. The analysis shows how, at the aggregate level, social democracy increases its emphasis on traditional economic left issues over time, with the effect driven entirely by the recent post-Great Depression years. However, once disaggregating the results, a more differentiated picture emerges, pointing towards potential causes of concern in terms of measurement validity within the MARPOR data. The article discusses the substantive and, especially, methodological implications of its findings in detail.

Federico Trastulli è un dottorando in 'Politics' presso il Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche della LUISS Guido Carli, dov'è anche cultore della materia e assistente di ricerca in Scienza Politica. È Teaching Assistant in Political Science e collabora alle attività didattiche di corsi di metodi quantitativi per le scienze sociali. È un collaboratore di ricerca del CISE e membro di associazioni professionali come CES e IPSA. È stato visiting doctoral researcher presso il CEVIPOF di Sciences Po, Parigi. I suoi interessi di ricerca riguardano i partiti politici e in particolare sinistra e socialdemocrazia, cleavage e class politics, la competizione elettorale, la politica comparata, le attitudini politiche e il comportamento di voto, e i metodi di ricerca sociale. I suoi contributi di ricerca sono stati pubblicati in riviste peer-reviewed nazionali e internazionali. Precedentemente si è laureato in Studi Europei alla London School of Economics and Political Science (MSc) e in Scienze Politiche e Relazioni Internazionali alla Sapienza Università di Roma (Laurea triennale).