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Partisan ideology, veto players and their combined effect on productive and protective welfare policy: how the left still matters after all?

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Quantitative analysis of the question whether ‘parties still matter’ has largely focused on the dynamics of aggregated expenditure-based dependent variables or protective welfare policies such as unemployment, sickness and family benefits. This article develops a series of pooled time-series cross-section regression specifications predicting changes in disaggregated protective welfare policies alongside productive welfare policies, namely family services, active labour market programmes and public education, across 17 Western democracies (1971–2010). In so doing, it employs the latest Comparative Manifesto Project [Volkens, A., P. Lehmann, N. Merz, S. Regel, and A. Werner. 2014. The Manifesto Data Collection. Manifesto Project (MRG/CMP/MARPOR). Version 2014b. Berlin: Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB). Accessed January 2015. https://manifestoproject.wzb.eu/information/information] and Veto Player [Jahn, D., T. Behm, N. Düpont, and C. Oberst. 2012. Parties, Institutions & Preferences: Veto Player (Annual), Version 2012–02. Accessed January 2015. http://comparativepolitics.uni-greifswald.de/data.html] data to explore the effect of the ideological position of prime ministers’ parties, veto players and their combined effect on these welfare policy areas. The article confirms that Left and Right governments ceased to make any substantive difference for protective welfare policies from the early 1980s onwards. Yet, it also finds that positive Left partisan effects have largely persisted for productive welfare policies. In the era of global competition, Left party ideology has continued to be an important factor in realising a social investment perspective in practice; in terms of the expansion of family services, its effects have been contingent on the veto power Left prime ministers faced.
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Keywords: Partisan difference; global competition; pooled TSCS analysis; productive and protective welfare policies; social investment; veto players

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology and Social Policy, Lingnan University, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong

Publication date: March 4, 2018

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