The aim of this research is to better understand what is meant by general support for the welfare state. At the start of this study, I observed an alleged discrepancy between people’s preferences and welfare state policies. Whereas on the one hand various studies demonstrate that public support for generous welfare state arrangements remained high or in some countries increased across time, actual policy designs changed in the opposite direction and became increasingly sober and conditional. This mismatch between preferences and welfare state transformations has led me to research in detail whether and why the public continues to support welfare state arrangements. In general, this study reveals three conclusions that extend previous research in the field. First, welfare state support and real welfare policies are inextricably intertwined. Individual welfare preferences cannot sufficiently be understood if the reform of various welfare state policies is not considered simultaneously. Second, support for welfare state reforms contains several theoretical and empirical dimensions. When just one general support dimension is considered, inaccurate claims about support can occur. Third, it is not merely economic self-interest that explains individual welfare state support. Moral conceptions also drive support for welfare state reforms.

moral economy, public opinion, retrenchment, welfare state legitimacy
R.J. van der Veen (Romke) , P.H.J. Achterberg (Peter)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Raven, J. (2012, March 22). Popular Support for Welfare State Reforms: On Welfare State Preferences and Welfare State Reforms in the Netherlands. Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from