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The Welfare State, Public Opinion, and Power Resources Theory: Social Rights Support and Welfare State Regimes in Cross-National Perspective

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Abstract:

Welfare states have profound consequences for the dominant patterns of stratification and political conflict in democratic capitalist societies, with accumulating evidence that higher levels of effort (as measured by social spending relative to gross domestic product) contribute to lower levels of income inequality and poverty, while also raising the well-being of economically vulnerable groups such as women and children. Although advances during the past two decades in understanding causal mechanisms behind the development of welfare states have been considerable, research to date has not considered the role of public opinion, especially with respect to public support for the social rights of citizenship, in contributing to cross-national differences in welfare state institutions. But the causal logic of the influential power resources theory, with its emphasis on cross-national differences in government legitimacy and the importance of political party control over government, suggests that factors relating to mass opinion may contribute to differences in welfare state regime types. We believe that incorporating mass opinion more closely into welfare state theory and research may have significant scholarly benefits. We evaluate this possibility by extending power resources theory and then presenting offering the first cross-national analysis of the effects of mass policy preferences on welfare state effort. Analysis of new data for developed democracies within Western Europe, North America, and Australasia, provides evidence that variation in social rights support explains a substantial portion of the differences between welfare states, including between social-democratic and liberal-democratic regimes. Effects of (lagged) social rights support across six different welfare state-related policy domains have direct as well as indirect components, and the mediating role of partisan control of government suggests the importance of theorizing factors relating to public opinion as a mechanism behind both election outcomes and welfare state regimes. We discuss the implications of these results for extending power resources theory and for advancing social-scientific understanding of novel sources of difference between welfare states in developed democracies.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

welfar (242), state (240), social (234), polici (125), right (113), support (110), public (100), opinion (86), differ (85), democraci (79), effort (78), effect (70), polit (70), level (69), govern (67), nation (64), regim (56), univers (55), countri (55), factor (51), mass (46),

Author's Keywords:

welfare state, power resources, mass opinion
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Name: American Sociological Association
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MLA Citation:

Brooks, Clem. and Manza, Jeff. "The Welfare State, Public Opinion, and Power Resources Theory: Social Rights Support and Welfare State Regimes in Cross-National Perspective" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Hilton San Francisco & Renaissance Parc 55 Hotel, San Francisco, CA,, Aug 14, 2004 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p108567_index.html>

APA Citation:

Brooks, C. and Manza, J. , 2004-08-14 "The Welfare State, Public Opinion, and Power Resources Theory: Social Rights Support and Welfare State Regimes in Cross-National Perspective" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Hilton San Francisco & Renaissance Parc 55 Hotel, San Francisco, CA, Online <.PDF>. 2009-05-26 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p108567_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Welfare states have profound consequences for the dominant patterns of stratification and political conflict in democratic capitalist societies, with accumulating evidence that higher levels of effort (as measured by social spending relative to gross domestic product) contribute to lower levels of income inequality and poverty, while also raising the well-being of economically vulnerable groups such as women and children. Although advances during the past two decades in understanding causal mechanisms behind the development of welfare states have been considerable, research to date has not considered the role of public opinion, especially with respect to public support for the social rights of citizenship, in contributing to cross-national differences in welfare state institutions. But the causal logic of the influential power resources theory, with its emphasis on cross-national differences in government legitimacy and the importance of political party control over government, suggests that factors relating to mass opinion may contribute to differences in welfare state regime types. We believe that incorporating mass opinion more closely into welfare state theory and research may have significant scholarly benefits. We evaluate this possibility by extending power resources theory and then presenting offering the first cross-national analysis of the effects of mass policy preferences on welfare state effort. Analysis of new data for developed democracies within Western Europe, North America, and Australasia, provides evidence that variation in social rights support explains a substantial portion of the differences between welfare states, including between social-democratic and liberal-democratic regimes. Effects of (lagged) social rights support across six different welfare state-related policy domains have direct as well as indirect components, and the mediating role of partisan control of government suggests the importance of theorizing factors relating to public opinion as a mechanism behind both election outcomes and welfare state regimes. We discuss the implications of these results for extending power resources theory and for advancing social-scientific understanding of novel sources of difference between welfare states in developed democracies.

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Document Type: .PDF
Page count: 45
Word count: 13058
Text sample:
The Welfare State Public Opinion and Power Resources Theory: Social Rights Support and Welfare State Regimes in Cross-National Perspective Clem Brooks Department of Sociology Indiana University Bloomington Bloomington IN 47405 - 7103 Jeff Manza Department of Sociology Northwestern University Evanston IL 60208 - 1330 December 2003 (word count: approximately 12 900) * Data from the Labor Force Statistics Main Economic Indicators National Accounts and Social Expenditures Database were provided by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; data and
in the United States. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Wilensky Harold. 1975. The Welfare State and Equality. Berkeley: University of California Press. Wilensky Harold. 2002. Rich Democracies: Political Economy Public and Performance. Berkeley: University of California Press. Wlezien Christopher. 1995. "The Public as Thermostat: Dynamics of Preferences for Spending." American Journal of Political Science 39:981-1000. Wlezien Christopher. 1996. "Dynamics of Representation: The Case of US Spending on Defence." British Journal of Political Science 26: 81-103. Zylan Yvonne and Soule Sarah.


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