- The effect of economic change and elite framing on support for welfare state retrenchment: a survey experiment
- Journal of European Social Policy
- Volume | Issue number
- 26 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
How do economic downturns affect citizens’ support for welfare state retrenchment? Existing observational studies fail to isolate the effect of economic conditions and the effect of elite framing of these conditions. We therefore designed a survey experiment to evaluate how economic change in conjunction with different elite frames impact citizens’ support for welfare state retrenchment. We hypothesise and demonstrate that the effects of these frames differ by income group and partisanship. Our survey experiment - carried out in the United Kingdom - demonstrates that poor economic prospects generally motivate support for unemployment benefits vis-à-vis deficit reduction. Emphasis on inequality does not change this picture. Emphasis on government debt and deficits increases support for retrenchment compared with objective information. We find support for the hypothesis that partisans are less responsive to the economy than independents. However, income differences are a surprisingly weak moderator of our treatments. We derive two main conclusions: first, elite frames significantly influence the effect of economic change on welfare state preferences. Second, party identification is crucial to understand individual differences in welfare state preferences and should receive more attention in future research.
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