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The Danish Parliamentary Election 2015 – Rebellion from the periphery

Andet forskningsprojekt | 05/09/2017

The Danish national election in 2015 was the temporary culmination of a new emerging political landscape on at least three dimensions: a political, a social and a geographical.

By Professor Kasper M. Hansen, Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen and Professor Rune Stubager, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University.

Politically speaking the “old” parties; Social democrats, Social Liberals, Conservatives and Liberals had the worst election of all time. Instead of the four “old” parties, the voters preferred the political extremes, the newer parties and a completely new party. The new party, the Alternative, gained parliamentary representation after just one and a half year of existence. At the same time, the voters showed great distrust of the politicians – a distrust that was largest amongst the voters who voted for the younger parties. The voters made the decision about their vote much later than in earlier elections and 42 percent chose to vote for a different party than they did in the 2011 election. As shown in figure 1 and 2 the current situation is a temporary culmination of a gradual trend, which has been developing over many elections. The 2015 election was therefore not a sudden change, as was the case in the landslide election in 1973, but rather a continuation of a continuous trend, developed over a number of recent elections.

Figure 1: Support of the four old parties and trust in the politicians (percent)

Socially speaking analyses of the voting behaviour at the Danish national election 2015 shows, that a substantial number of voters feel socially insecure about whether for example the welfare state will help them if they will need it because of unemployment and/or illness or when they retire. This group of voters is especially strong among the Danish Peoples’ Party’s supporters.  The analyses also indicate that there is a large group of voters who strongly prioritises stability and continuity in the current model of society and seems sceptical about larger reforms. This group is centred around the Social Democrats. The 2015 election showed the outlines for new themes of political disputes, which breaks with the traditional distinction between left and right. However, the analyses also show that women voted more to the left and men voted more to the right; young women voted even more to the left and young men favoured the economically liberal Liberal Alliance. Voters with higher education voted more to the left and voters with shorter education voted more to the right.

Figure 2: Party changers and campaign deciders (percent)

Geographically speaking the political landscape changed at the Danish National Election 2015. The Alternative picked up almost all their votes in the big cities, although they also got a relatively large number of votes from islands with no bridge connections (see figure 3). The Danish People’s Party saw a strong increase in their support in rural areas, especially because they gained votes from the Liberals, who suffered setback almost everywhere – 4.9 percent of all votes moved from the Liberals to the Danish People’s Party in the 2015 election. All in all, the differences in the support for the parties between the cities and the countryside was at the highest level in 25 years. The combination of the voting patterns for gender, age, education and geography shows a more politically polarised Denmark than we have seen since 1971, when the Danish National Election Study began. 

Figure 3: The support for the Alternative (FV15, percent)

Danish National Election Study

The Danish National Election Study conducts research through a substantial survey, where 2,000 Danes spend around an hour answering questions about their voting behaviour and their opinions on a vast range of political issues. The study is the longest running study in Denmark and consists of continuous data collected after each election since 1971. The data collection for the Danish National Election Study 2015 was funded by the Carlsberg Foundation.