How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public
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How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public

Policy Feedback, Participation, Voting, and Attitudes

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.
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Chapter 14: Informed performance evaluation of the welfare state? Experimental and real-world findings

Staffan Kumlin


Performance evaluations concern how social protection and public services ìwork in practiceî as opposed to whether they are, in principle, normatively worthy of support. Previous chapters have concluded that such evaluations constitute one avenue for policy feedback in the welfare state area. By example, Hedegaard and Larsen (Chapter 13) found that public service dissatisfaction increases support for service-specific public spending. Likewise, Kumlin (Chapter 9) argued that performance dissatisfaction damages generalized political trust, rather than specific support for incumbent parties and governments But can citizens assess welfare state performance in a reasonable and informed way? Do they perceive welfare state realities correctly? Do their current assessments correspond to those they would have made with more and better information? These are important questions as representative democracy requires that voters can retrospectively hold rulers to account. Under this vision, citizens encounter and consider an open and balanced information flow about performance. On Election Day, at the latest, those dissatisfied show their frustration and vote the rascals out. Democratic theorists have found this process attractive for at least two reasons.

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