Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 1, issue 1

Wolfgang C. Müller and Peter A. Ulram, "The Social and Demographic Structure of Austrian Parties, 1945-93," Party Politics , 1 (January, 1995),145-160.

First Paragraph:
The social and demographic structure of political parties is a classic question for the sociology of politics. This question is often addressed from the perspective of the electorate, for instance by asking to what extent social class is related to support for specific political parties (see, e.g., Franklin et al., 1992). This Report takes its angle from the point of view of the parties. Its straightforward task is to analyse the development of the social and demographic structure of Austrian political parties in the post-war period. In so doing, we distinguish between party supporters (parties in the electorate) and party members (party organizations), which constitute two concentric cycles of a party, expressing different degrees of party solidarity (Duverger, 1959: 61). Data on party supporters are contained in Tables 1-4, data on party members in Table 5-7 and Figures 1 and 2.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1: The social and demographic structure of SPO supporters in percentages (1955-93).
Table 2: The social and demographic structure of OVP supporters in percentages (1955-93).
Table 3: The social and demographic structure of FPO supporters in percentages (1978-93).
Table 4: The social and demographic structure of Green and Liberal supporters in percentages (1985-93).
Table 5: The social and demographic structure of SPO members in percentages (1976-93).
Table 6: The social and demographic structure of SPO members in percentages (1947-92).
Table 7: The social and demographic structure of OVP members in percentages (1976-93).
Figure 1: Membership of the OVP leagues, 1945-90 (maximum).
Figure 2: Membership of the OVP leagues, 1945-91 (minimum).

Last Paragraph:
At the level of party members the SPO, like other social democratic parties, has become a middle-class party, drawing its members in particular from the public sector (cf. Kitschelt, 1993). The public sector is also grossly over-represented among the blue- and white-collar workers who hold OVP membership. Moreover, the traditional core groups of farmers and the self-employed have maintained much of their strength in the OVP, despite their numerical decline in the population at large. In both major parties the elderly are over-represented in the stock of membership. If party members indeed act as party 'ambassadors to the community', all these facts can be assumed to be counterproductive for the parties. From this perspective, their large membership stocks would probably constitute secure voters, but their unrepresentativeness would also alienate voters from other social groups. More research is needed to find out whether the composition of party membership has an impact on the vote. Changes in the support structure of parties, as reported above, at least do not contradict this.