Welfare State Reform Support from Below: Linking Individual Attitudes and Organised Interests in Europe
Public opinion and “vested” organized interests are seen as major obstacles to changing the status quo of welfare state policies. Radical or far-reaching reforms of welfare states are politically risky for governments, as they have to fear electoral backlash and opposition from influential interest groups. The project “Welfare State Support from Below” seeks to analyze the influence of non-governmental actors and public opinion on public policy making as well as the possible feedback processes of reforms on individual attitudes and collective interest strategies in selected social policy fields (pension and healthcare policies). By comparing three European countries (in particular Germany, France and the United Kingdom) it analyses different institutional welfare state settings and interest intermediation systems in order to show the impact of varying contexts on the political economy of welfare state reform. With regard to the integrated research agenda of the Mannheim Sonderforschungsbereich 884 "Political Economy of Reform", this SFB-Project A6 focuses primarily on individual and corporate actors in major fields of social policy from a comparative perspective.
At the end of the first phase (2010-12) of the SFB-project A6, the research team concluded the empirical bases of the comparative research for pension and health care policies. It concluded the interviews with organized interest representatives across the three countries (Germany, France, and the UK). Comparative analyses on public attitudes were conducted and questionnaires for two waves for the German Internet Panel (GIP) were developed. The project team was successful in acquiring further funding for the second phase of the SFB 884 Political Economy of Reforms (2014-17), which will add the area of labour market policy and further GIP waves.