Parties and Their Positions on Entrepreneurship over Time: Does the Historical Legacy of a Political System Matter?

Saturday, 4 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW2.1.01 (Tower Two)
Marc Debus, Mannheim University & Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, Mannheim, Germany
Jale Tosun, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany
Economic and welfare policies and their perception by citizens are crucial for the citizens’ degree of satisfaction with political institutions in modern democracies. Since one aim of political parties is to link citizens and their interest with the political system, it is important to which degree parties incorporate the preferences of citizens on decisive policy areas. 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. In line with theories on party competition and political agenda-setting, we expect that not only market-liberal parties, but also centrist and social democratic parties adopted more favourable positions on entrepreneurship over time. In addition, we argue that the historical legacy of a political system and its impact on citizens attitudes and preferences matter: citizens socialised in a socialist state should have less favourable positions on entrepreneurship, so that parties – regardless of their ideological origin – should refrain from mentioning positive positions on entrepreneurship. We test our hypotheses on the basis of a content analysis of election manifestos and coalition agreements of Western and Eastern German states in the time period between 1990 and 2013. 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 constant the institutional setting. The results provide support for our expectations