The electoral consequences of welfare state retrenchment: Blame avoidance or credit claiming in the era of permanent austerity?


Nathalie Giger, Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, University of Mannheim, A5,6, D-68159 Mannheim, Germany. E-mail:


This article challenges the dominant assumptions in the literature that cutting social policy incurs voter wrath and that political parties can efficiently internalise electoral fallout with blame avoidance strategies. Drawing on the diverse literature on the role of partisanship in the period of permanent austerity, several partisan hypotheses on the relationship between social policy change and electoral outcomes are posited. The results indicate that religious and liberal parties gain votes, and thereby are able to ‘claim credit’, for retrenching social policy. None of the other coefficients for the effect of social policy cuts reach significance, raising the question of whether parties excel at blame avoidance or the public fails to place blame in the first place.