Many governments enacting welfare reforms deploy blame avoidance strategies in order to prevent electoral punishment. However, it is yet unclear when and under which conditions blame avoidance strategies actually work. This study employed an online survey experiment to examine how perceptual blame avoidance strategies influence the attitudes of Dutch citizens about a Danish policy reform. More specifically, we assessed if citizens become more positive about welfare state retrenchment if politicians frame these measures as inevitable and reinforce their message with scientific evidence. Our findings demonstrate that this specific type of perceptual blame avoidance does not have a positive effect on the attitudes of our respondents. This is not surprising, since the respondents were generally positive about the reforms – rendering blame avoidance strategies superfluous. This study casts doubt on Paul Pierson’s New Politics Thesis and raises new questions about the inter-welfare state solidarity among citizens.
Keywords: blame avoidance, welfare state retrenchment, comparative policy reform, framing, scientific knowledge, experiment
Citation: Krijger, F. de (2018) Science as a Discursive Weapon for Effective Blame. Disentangling Citizens’ Attitudes Towards Welfare State Retrenchment. Public Note, 2(2), 5-18
Floris de Krijger