Georg Wenzelburger, Felix Hörisch
Framing effects and comparative social policy reform - Comparing blame avoidance evidence from two experiments

Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, 2016: 18, Heft 2, S. 157-175
ISSN: 1387-6988 (print); 1572-5448 (online)

Following Paul Pierson’s work on the New Politics of the Welfare State, numerous studies on welfare state reforms have shown that governments enacting welfare cuts regularly employ blame avoidance strategies and use issue frames when they communicate welfare reform poli-cies. However, it remains largely unexplained to what extent these blame avoidance strategies really impact on the attitudes of voters on the micro level. This study sets out to fill this void in the literature. Using an experiment on pension reforms and student grant cutbacks, we pro-vide experimental evidence which shows that blame avoidance and framing strategies affect individual attitudes towards the proposed policies – in particular in case of pension reforms. Moreover, in case of the pension experiment, the impact is conditioned by individual risk ex-posure. These results add significantly to the literature on blame avoidance and welfare state reform policies by indicating that successful blame avoidance may be the reason why gov-ernments are not always punished for cutbacks to the welfare state.