Chapter

Do Policy Preferences Explain Welfare State Differences?

in Why Welfare States Persist

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780226075839
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226075952 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226075952.003.0003
Do Policy Preferences Explain Welfare State Differences?

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The central proposition of the embedded preferences theory is that mass policy preferences are a powerful factor behind welfare state output. Mass opinion is consequential in two ways. First, the preferences of the public can exert a direct influence over governments and welfare states. This is because political incumbents and government officials seek to avoid electoral sanctions or such forms of voter disapproval as mass protests. They tend accordingly to incorporate mass opinion into social policymaking “prior” to, or independent of, a specific election. A second, “indirect” conduit of mass opinion's influence is elections. National elections provide an opportunity for the preferences of voters to shape the direction of welfare state and public policy activities through their influence on the partisan composition of national government. Social policy differences between political parties are a well-established feature in the political landscapes of developed democracies.

Keywords: embedded preferences; policy preferences; welfare state; output; mass opinion; social policy; national elections; public policy; national government

Chapter.  8293 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Political Economy

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