Trade Union Membership, Redistribution Support and Party Choice

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 356 (University of Glasgow)
Nadja Mosimann , University of Geneva
All over Europe income inequality has risen over the past decades. Research shows that the almost ubiquitous decline in union density significantly contributes to this increase in inequality. We know that trade union membership boosts support for redistribution but otherwise lack studies at the micro level on how union membership affects individuals' demand for redistributive policies.

I believe this membership effect to be three-fold: First, trade union membership increases affluent individuals' likelihood to support redistribution. Second, it raises turnout among less affluent individuals. And third, it increases the salience of one's preferences for redistribution when choosing which party to vote for. Focusing on the third effect, I ask in this article: Does redistribution support translate into voting for left parties among union members while non-members are more likely to support right-wing parties even when they support redistribution?

Drawing on Comparative Study of Electoral Systems data from the mid-1990s to the mid-2010s, I argue that unionized individuals are better equipped than non-members to make a party choice reflecting their economic preferences and that redistribution preferences influences members' vote to a higher degree. While the former enlightenment effect mainly affects individuals displaying low levels of political sophistication, the latter increase in salience influences sophisticated and unsophisticated individuals alike. By applying multinomial multilevel logistic models, I argue that trade unions are plausible vessels that enlighten their members about how redistribution support and voting for the left are linked and why voting for a party invested in redistributive policies matters.

  • 2017_CES_Mosimann.pdf (560.5 kB)