Policy Feedback, Participation, Voting, and Attitudes
Edited by Staffan Kumlin and Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen
Chapter 10: Social policy, legitimation and diverging regional paths in Belgium
Do regional governments gain legitimation from their social policy? Does regional social policy exert an effect that feeds citizensí preferences for the regional level of government? The issue of the feedback effect of regional social policy arises in a context where, over the last three decades, regional governments across Europe were entrusted with core social policy responsibilities in health care, education, labour policy and social assistance (e.g. McEwen and Moreno, 2005). Examining such feedback effects contributes to the analysis of democracy at the regional level (e.g. Loughlin et al., 2010). The chapter addresses the legitimation effects of regional social policy by investigating the case of Belgium, more specifically, the two regional cases of Flanders and Wallonia. These cases provide something akin to a natural experiment, as the federalization of the country occurred concurrently to the development of diverging regional paths from what were once close starting points, that is, long-term convergence between Flanders and Wallonia existed until 1993. After this date however, citizens in Flanders have increasingly shown both a preference for the regional level of government and a stronger identification with the region. Wallonia experienced opposite patterns: From 1993 on, citizens have expressed less support for the regional level and a decreased regional identification. The overall picture emerging from our analyses is one of long-run convergence between Flanders and Wallonia up to 1993, and divergence thereafter.
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