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

Authors: Brooks, Clem. and Manza, Jeff.
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The Welfare State, Public Opinion, and Power Resources Theory: Social Rights
Support and Welfare State Regimes in Cross-National Perspective
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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