Welfare States and Public Opinion
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Welfare States and Public Opinion

Perceptions of Healthcare Systems, Family Policy and Benefits for the Unemployed and Poor in Europe

Claus Wendt, Monika Mischke and Michaela Pfeifer

Welfare States and Public Opinion comprises an informed inquiry into three fields of social policy – health policy, family policy, and unemployment benefits and social assistance. Though the analyses stem from research spanning fifteen countries across Europe, the conclusions can be applied to social policy problems in nations worldwide. Combining a detailed analysis of the institutional structure of social policy with the study of public attitudes toward healthcare, family policy, and benefits for the unemployed and poor, this book represents a new stream in public opinion research. The authors demonstrate that the institutional designs of social policies have a great impact on inequalities among social groups, and provide best practices for gaining public support for social policy reform.
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Chapter 2: Perceptions of Welfare State Institutions: Theories and Concepts

Claus Wendt, Monika Mischke and Michaela Pfeifer


Institutional theory provides an important theoretical foundation for explaining people’s perceptions of welfare state institutions and why larger groups of people act in a very similar way in certain situations (DiMaggio and Powell 1991; Hall and Taylor 1996; Lepsius 1997; Kumlin and Rothstein 2005). We argue that public support for social policy is framed by the institutional design of these systems (for a similar argument, see Esping-Andersen 1990; Gevers et al. 2000; Gelissen 2002; Wendt et al. 2010). As Korpi (2003, p. 598) put it, ‘It can be argued that major welfare-state institutions are likely to be of relevance for the formation of values, attitudes, and interests among citizens.’ In this chapter, we provide an overview of institutional theory and conceptual frameworks in order to measure public attitudes against the background of institutional settings, and we discuss earlier research on attitudes toward social policy institutions. 2.1 INSTITUTIONAL THEORY Institutional theory is generally divided into three separable traditions: rational choice institutionalism, sociological institutionalism and historical institutionalism (Hall and Taylor 1996; Immergut 1998; Lieberman 2002; Béland 2005; Wendt 2009a). All three types of institutionalism focus on the relationship between institutions and human behavior (Hall and Taylor 1996; Immergut 1998) and share the goal of contributing to a better understanding of institutions and their impact on individuals in modern societies. In line with Max Weber, however, it would be more accurate to speak of processes of institutionalization rather than static institutions (Albert et al. 2003), as the institutionalization of the market economy...

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