Separation or divorce? The popular class and social democracy in Poland

Policy Study


Over the past decades, nationalistic and populist political forces have risen in various European countries, capturing the votes of the popular class and blue-collar workers—social groups that traditionally supported the centre-left. This shift is especially pronounced in Poland, where the right-wing, illiberal populist Law and Justice (PiS, Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) party has become the leading force among those who suffered during the systemic transition of the early ’90s and neoliberal austerity.

The Polish parliamentary elections on October 15, 2023, marked a significant shift, with anti-PiS parties achieving success while Polish social democracy faced one of its worst performances in history. Our policy study delves into how the Polish centre-left is perceived by voters from the popular class, spanning rural areas to larger cities. It focuses on those who historically supported the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD, Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej) and Aleksander Kwasniewski, as well as the political views, motivations, and demotivations of New Left (NL, Nowa Lewica) voters in 2023 compared to SLD supporters from four years earlier.

Utilizing Focus Group Interviews (FGI), the author surveyed representatives from diverse backgrounds, including current NL voters from Warsaw and Wloclawek and former SLD voters from Jelenia Gora. This comprehensive analysis offers a unique portrait of Polish social democracy, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses through the lens of public opinion. The findings in this Policy Study resilt of a multiannual project run by FEPS and FES Warsaw Office, reveal a significant shift in the electoral profile of Polish progressives and the popular class, providing a critical basis for understanding the challenges faced by the centre-left in Poland and across Europe.

You can check the first Policy study of the project here

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