Sometimes only two months may look like an eternity: As in Swedish politics of today. The common sense by then was that the Social Democrats was doomed to lose another election and possibly could fall down to levels of around 20 percent. The chairmanship of Håkan Juholt was full of gaffes in just about each and every policy field.
Well, that was two months ago. Right now their new chairman Stefan Löfvén is gaining ground just about everywhere. Voters come from the Conservatives, the Left party, the Green party and it seems that the Social Democrats again has established their position as number one in Swedish politics.
Among both bloggers and the Twitter community as well as the old media the ruling coalition Government has been on the defensive during the last months. The arms deal scandal that toppled Minister of Defence Sten Tolgfors was just one of many minor and major backlashes that have hurt the Government. The consolation may lie in the fact that the Parliamentary election is more than two years away.
An explanation to this surge in opinion may be that the brand and party Social Democrats, although weakened, is still very strong in Sweden. Firstly, party members still matters and a year ago the Social Democrats had almost twice as many members (106.000), as the Conservatives (60.000). Despite the fact that party members are not as important today, they still play a vital role in mobilizing potential sympathizers.
Secondly and perhaps more important, Sweden is still mentally more Social Democratic than Liberal, or for that part Conservative. A sign of that is the fact that the welfare state still has a broad support in Sweden. Issues concerning equality and fairness as (more) equal outcome are stronger in Sweden than in many other European countries.
Data by Stefan Svallfors, professor of Sociology in Umeå, confirms that the support for the welfare state has been maintained, despite (or perhaps thanks to) the incremental changes that has occurred in the 1990s and 2000s. Overall, there is a large degree of stability in attitudes, and where change is registered, it tends to be increasing support. More people state their willingness to pay higher taxes for welfare policy purposes and more people want collective financing of welfare policies.
One may argue that the Liberals and Conservatives may have a fair share in creating the characteristics of the welfare state in the early 1900s, but it is seldom disputed that the party that is identified with and identifies with the welfare state and welfare policies in Sweden is the Social Democrats.
Henrik Lindberg has a PhD in economic history and is today a researcher at the Ratio Institute.