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Risky Business? Welfare state reforms and government support in Britain and Denmark

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  • Seonghui Lee
  • ,
  • Carsten Jensen
  • Christoph Arndt
  • ,
  • Georg Wenzelburger, University of Kaiserslautern

Are welfare state reforms electorally dangerous for governments? Political scientists have only recently begun to study this seemingly simple question, and existing work still suffers from two shortcomings. First, it has never tested the reform-vote link with data on actual legislative decisions for enough points in time to allow robust statistical tests. Secondly, it has failed to take into account the many expansionary reforms that have occurred in recent decades. Expansions often happen in the same years as cutbacks. By focusing only on cutbacks, estimates of the effects of reforms on government popularity become biased. This article addresses both shortcomings. The results show that voters punish governments for cutbacks, but also reward them for expansions, making so-called compensation, a viable blame-avoidance strategy. The study also finds that the size of punishments and rewards is roughly the same, suggesting that voters' well-documented negativity bias does not directly translate into electoral behavior.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Political Science
Pages (from-to)165-184
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

    Research areas

  • Welfare state reforms, government support, new politics of welfare state, old-age pensions, unemployment protection

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