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How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public

How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public

Policy Feedback, Participation, Voting, and Attitudes

Globalization and Welfare series

Edited by Staffan Kumlin and Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen

Staffan Kumlin and Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen bring together political scientists and sociologists from different and frequently separated research communities to examine policy feedback in European welfare states. In doing so, they offer a rich menu of different methodological approaches. The book demonstrates how long-term policy legacies and short-term policy change affect the public, but also shows that such processes are contingent on individual characteristics and political context.

Chapter 9: Policy feedback in political context: unemployment benefits, election campaigns, and democratic satisfaction

Staffan Kumlin

Subjects: politics and public policy, european politics and policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, welfare states


This chapter studies citizensí satisfaction with democracy in the context of West European welfare states. Specifically, I test propositions about how unemployment benefit generosity affects satisfaction with democracy. Consistent with past research, the findings will suggest that higher generosity levels in unemployment benefits are a positive factor for democratic satisfaction. At the same time, this support-building function will turn out to be contextually fragile. The results support a ìvisible costs hypothesisî predicting a weaker legitimization effect as the size and costs of the underlying social risk grows; this refutes another reasonable ideaóthe ìvisible interests hypothesesîópredicting stronger legitimization effects as more citizens become obvious stakeholders. Finally, we shall see that the visible costs phenomenon is not only or mainly explained by exogenous realities in the form of actual unemployment rates. Instead, the political representation and construction of unemployment appears a key moderator, as measured by pervasive salience in the public sphere at election time.

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