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Hard choices. Preferences, trade-offs and reform opportunities in multidimensional welfare politics

English title Hard choices. Preferences, trade-offs and reform opportunities in multidimensional welfare politics
Applicant Häusermann Silja
Number 159341
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Politikwissenschaft Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.09.2015 - 31.08.2018
Approved amount 348'553.00
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Keywords (5)

welfare state; preferences; social policy; conjoint analysis; distributive conflict

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Unter welchen Voraussetzungen können in einem Wohlfahrtsstaat Reformen gelingen? Genauer: Wie können etablierte soziale Programme veränderten demografischen, ökonomischen und sozialen Einschränkungen angepasst werden? Dieses Forschungsprojekt soll diese Fragen mithilfe einer Verbindung zwischen theoretischen Fortschritten in der relevanten Literatur, methodologischer Innovation in der öffentlichen Meinungsforschung und der Entfaltung der ehrgeizigsten und umfassendsten Rentenreform in der Schweiz seit Jahrzehnten beantworten.
Lay summary

Die Literatur zu Wohlfahrtsstaatenreformen betont, dass eine der wichtigsten Erkenntnisse der Forschung im letzten Jahrzehnt die Multidimensionalität von Wohlfahrtspolitik ist. Dies bedeutet, dass Individuen nicht bloss „für“ oder „gegen“ Sozialpolitik sind, sondern dass sie spezifische Präferenzen in unterschiedlichen Bereichen haben. Diese Multidimensionalität eröffnet Möglichkeiten für Trade-Offs und Kompromisse, da die Kosten einer Dimension mit dem Nutzen einer anderen Dimension ausgeglichen werden können. Eine grosse Schwierigkeit – sowohl für Forscher als auch politische Entscheidungsträger – ist jedoch, dass die relative Wichtigkeit, die Individuen oder soziale Gruppen den unterschiedlichen Dimensionen beimessen, fast unmöglich ist mit Standardumfragen zuverlässig zu beobachten.

Hier kommen neue methodologische Innovationen in öffentlicher Meinungsforschung dazu. Conjoint analysis ist eine experimentelle Umfragemethode, die erlaubt zu messen, ob Veränderungen in der Zusammensetzung eines Reformpakets zu Meinungsumschwüngen in der ganzen Bevölkerung, oder in spezifischen Gruppen, bewirken.

Die momentane Schweizer Rentenreform („Altervorsorge 2020“) ist ein ehrgeiziger Versuch, das gesamte System der Altersvorsorge zu reformieren. Es bietet deshalb die perfekte Möglichkeit, Einsicht in Wohlfahrtsstaatentheorie betreffend Multidimensionalität und conjoint analysis zu verbinden. Dies ist der Grund warum wie eine Panelstudie durchführen werden, die den politischen Reformprozess begleitet. Wir erheben die Daten in einer Onlineumfrage an drei Zeitpunkten. Das longitudinale Design erlaubt uns die Evaluation der Auswirkung der sich veränderten Debatte in den Medien über die spezifischen Gewichtung, die verschiedene soziale und politische Gruppierungen (Pensionären, Parteifunktionäre, etc.) spezifischen Aspekten der Reform zuschreiben.

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 16.07.2015

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Mehrheitsfähigkeit der Altersvorsorge 2020: Die Bewertung der Reformelemente durch die StimmbürgerInnen vor der Abstimmung
HäusermannSilja, KurerThomas, TraberDenise, PinggeraMichael (2018), Mehrheitsfähigkeit der Altersvorsorge 2020: Die Bewertung der Reformelemente durch die StimmbürgerInnen vor der Abstimmung, in Swiss Political Science Review, 24(1), 41-97.
Stand und Aussichten einer Altersvorsorgepolitik in der Schweiz
WidmerThomas, HäusermannSilja (2018), Stand und Aussichten einer Altersvorsorgepolitik in der Schweiz, in Swiss Political Science Review, 24(1), 41-97.
The Politics of Trade-offs: Studying the Dynamics of Welfare State Reform with Conjoint Experiments
Häusermann Silja, KurerThomas, TraberDenise, The Politics of Trade-offs: Studying the Dynamics of Welfare State Reform with Conjoint Experiments, in Comparative Political Studies, https://do.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Lehrstuhl Methoden, Political Science Department, University of Zurich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
European Political Science Association annual conference Talk given at a conference The Politics of Trade-offs: Studying the Dynamics of Welfare State Reform with Conjoint Experiments 22.06.2017 Mailand, Italy Häusermann Silja;
Oxford University Nuffield College Comparative Politics Seminar Individual talk The Politics of Trade-offs: Studying the Dynamics of Welfare State Reform with Conjoint Experiments 02.05.2017 Oxford, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Häusermann Silja;
ECPR Joint Sessions, Pisa Talk given at a conference The Politics of Trade-offs: Studying the Dynamics of Welfare State Reform with Conjoint Experiments 25.04.2017 Pisa, Italy Traber Denise;
Annual Meeting Swiss Political Science Association Talk given at a conference The Politics of Trade-offs: Studying the Dynamics of Welfare State Reform with Conjoint Experiments 12.01.2017 St. Gallen, Switzerland Häusermann Silja;
Social Policy Preferences Workshop Talk given at a conference The Politics of Trade-offs: Studying the Dynamics of Welfare State Reform with Conjoint Experiments 28.04.2016 Durham, Duke University, United States of America Häusermann Silja;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Workshop. A perfect match? Comparative Political Economy and conjoint analysis 09.01.2017 Zurich, Switzerland

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Sozialversicherungen Aktuell Talk 07.04.2017 Zürich, Switzerland Häusermann Silja;
Ringvorlesung Universität Zürich: Politische Strategien zur Sicherung der Altersvorsorge Talk 18.04.2016 Zürich, Switzerland Häusermann Silja;
Sitzung der Fraktion der SP Schweiz, Wintersession 2015 Talk 16.12.2015 Bern, Switzerland Häusermann Silja;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: radio, television Bericht über die Abstimmungsvorlage, Diskussion unserer Befunde Tagesschau SRF German-speaking Switzerland 2017
Media relations: radio, television Bericht über die Befunde der zweiten Befragungswelle Tagesschau SRF German-speaking Switzerland 2017
Media relations: radio, television Bericht über Parteipositionen in der Rentenreform Rundschau, SRF German-speaking Switzerland 2017
Media relations: radio, television Altersvorsorge2020 Arena, SRF German-speaking Switzerland 2016
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Kurzberichte zur Studie (für jede Umfrage) Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland International 2016
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Serie von Beiträgen zum Projekt "Renten2020" Defacto German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland International 2016
Media relations: print media, online media Intakte Chancen für Rentenreform NZZ German-speaking Switzerland 2015

Abstract

Under what conditions can welfare states be reformed? More specifically: how can established social policy programmes be adapted to changing demographic, economic and social constraints? These are the key questions in today’s welfare state politics, and they have consequently become the key questions in political science research on the welfare state. They are of paramount importance, because welfare reform has become a particularly difficult terrain for democratically elected politicians, as the needs for financial consolidation clash with popular resistance against cutbacks or higher taxes. In this research project, we want to make use of the exceptional conjunction of theoretical advances in the relevant literature, methodological innovation in public opinion research and the unfolding of the most ambitious and encompassing pension reform in Switzerland in decades to provide answers to precisely these questions. With regard to the literature on welfare state reforms, one of the key insights of research over the past decade has been that welfare politics are multidimensional. This means that individuals are not just “in favor or against social policy”, but they hold specific preferences for different aspects of social policy. This multidimensionality opens the possibilities for trade-offs and compromises, as costs on one dimension can be counterbalanced by benefits on other dimensions. Hence, the key to successful welfare state reform is to engineer proposals that combine different policy dimensions in a way that fosters overall high levels of mass public support. One major difficulty - for researchers as well as policy-makers - is, however, that the relative importance that individuals or social groups attribute to these different dimensions is almost impossible to observe reliably in standard survey analysis. This is where recent methodological innovation in public opinion research comes in. Conjoint analysis is an experimental survey method that allows to measure whether changes in the composition of a reform package lead to sizeable shifts in support among the public as a whole, or among specific groups. To this effect, respondents compare different reform packages and indicate their degree of support to each of them. Through randomization of the composition of packages, we can identify how different components of a package affect support. The current Swiss pension reform (“Altersvorsorge 2020”) is an ambitious attempt at reforming the entire system of old age income protection. It therefore provides the perfect opportunity to combine the insights in welfare state theory regarding multidimensionality with conjoint analysis. This is an opportunity we would not want to miss. For this reason, we propose to conduct a panel study that goes along with the political reform process. We intend to field a panel online survey at three time points. The longitudinal design allows us to evaluate the impact of changing debates in the media on the weight specific social and political groups (pensioners, party electorates etc.) attribute to specific aspects of the reform. Our project would be the first to apply conjoint analysis to the study of welfare state change. It would generate contributions in three respects: theoretically for the welfare state literature regarding the relative importance of specific reform dimensions, methodologically by introducing a new tool to this area of research and politically by examining the democratic viability of particular pension reform proposals. These contributions would bear relevance far beyond the case of pension reform in Switzerland.
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