Table of Contents

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 12: Popular deservingness of the unemployed in the context of welfare state policies, economic conditions and cultural climate

Wim van Oorschot and Bart Meuleman

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


With the new financial crisis and globalization of labour markets, unemployment in Europe is once again on the rise. Consequently, we have witnessed a revival of redistributive questions regarding the social protection of the unemployed and a call for welfare reform (European Council, Joint Employment Report 2008/9). Despite this common crisis, we cannot expect policymakers across Europe to react in a uniform way, as countriesí social protection systems differ substantially. Moreover, there are differences in unemployment rates, due in part to the fact that not all European countries have been hit by the crisis in the same manner and to the same degree. Apart from institutional and economic factors, policymakers have to reckon with public opinion concerning unemployment and the unemployed, since public attitudes form a political context with a conditioning effect on social policy-making (Burstein, 2003; Brooks and Manza, 2006), either by ex ante agenda-setting or by ex post legitimation(van Oorschot, 2007). While there is ample comparative information on the socio-economic and institutional conditions with regard to employment in European countries, far less information is available about public attitudes towards the unemployed. This chapter aims to contribute to this kind of information using comparative data from the European Social Survey (ESS) 2008. Concretely, we analyse how popular perceptions of the deservingness of unemployed people vary across countries and whether they are influenced by policy feedback processes as well as economic conditions and cultural climate.

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