Do institutions matter? The interplay between income benefit design, popular perceptions, and the social legitimacy of targeted welfare. Journal of European Social Policy, 28(1), 4-17.
Abstract: A recurring theme in welfare state research is that public support for social welfare is related to the institutional design of welfare policies. However, strong empirical evidence for the institutional embeddedness of welfare attitudes has been lacking to date, and the underlying theoretical mechanisms remain underexplored. This article diverges from the widespread macro-perspective of welfare regime theory, by shifting the focus of its analysis from countries to income benefit schemes within the heterogeneous welfare context of the Netherlands. Based on the 2006 Welfare Opinions Survey, results show that the institutional design of three differently organized benefit schemes (the people’s pension, workers’ unemployment insurance and social assistance) is meaningfully related to popular perceptions of self-interest, programme performance and welfare deservingness. These intermediate perceptions, in turn, appear to have a significant impact on the social legitimacy of welfare allocation to the target groups of the schemes: pensioners, unemployed people and social assistance recipients.