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Moira Nelson

Moira Nelson

Associate professor

Moira Nelson

The Welfare State or the Economy? Preferences, Constituencies, and Strategies for retrenchment

Author

  • Nathalie Giger
  • Moira Nelson

Summary, in English

The assumption that voters systematically defend the welfare state is challenged by recent research showing that parties are on average not punished and sometimes even rewarded for welfare state retrenchment. We work to understand better the micro-foundations for this finding of non-punishment by exploring individuals’ preferences over social policy. In particular, we distinguish general support for redistribution from views that existing levels of government spending strains the economy. Since voters value economic stability in addition to equality, they are hypothesized to tolerate or support retrenchment when they feel that there are economic costs at stake. Analyzing a sample of 13 European societies with data from the European Social Survey Round 4, our results show that only welfare state supporters who do not believe that the welfare state hampers the economy punish retrenching governments. This finding helps explain the lack of more widespread electoral punishment following retrenchment, although other results suggest that retrenchment involves a rather delicate process of juggling the preferences of quite diverse constituencies.

Department/s

  • Department of Political Science

Publishing year

2013

Language

English

Pages

1083-1094

Publication/Series

European Sociological Review

Volume

29

Issue

5

Document type

Journal article

Publisher

Oxford University Press

Topic

  • Political Science

Status

Published

ISBN/ISSN/Other

  • ISSN: 0266-7215