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The Social Democratic parties of Sweden and Denmark share many things, operating in countries with shared history and culture. However, one thing not shared is refugee policy. This working paper seeks to understand why the Social Democratic parties of Sweden and Denmark have developed such different refugee policies despite their many similarities. While the gradual developments of both parties in opposite policy directions can be seen to take place over time, existing literature proposes several different explanations to what has caused this divergence. As such, this research aims at filling a gap in existing literature by gathering central explanations, assessing and reviewing their relative influence on policy divergence. This is done by exploring key changes in policy using three different hypotheses, all presenting a potential causal factor and mechanism for divergence. These three factors are party politics, leadership, and refugee inflow level. They are extracted from three strands of existing literature, namely from comparative politics of asylum in Scandinavia, comparative politics of asylum in general, as well as from the literature on comparative politics of Scandinavian social democratic parties. Examining key policy changes using categorization of factors based on causal role played, this research seeks to understand how divergence has emerged as a result of the chosen three factors. The resulting argument is that all extracted factors have played a part in policy change, but that the party-political factor constitutes the core explanation for policy divergence, even if the leadership factor has also contributed. The last factor, refugee inflow, is argued to not be causal for divergence.



Working paper


Refugee Studies Centre

Publication Date



RSC Working Paper Series 137

Total pages