Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

A Public Transformed? Welfare Reform as Policy Feedback

  • JOE SOSS (a1) and SANFORD F. SCHRAM (a2)

Abstract

This article analyzes the strategic use of public policy as a tool for reshaping public opinion. In the 1990s, “progressive revisionists” argued that, by reforming welfare, liberals could free the Democratic Party of a significant electoral liability, reduce the race-coding of poverty politics, and produce a public more willing to invest in anti-poverty efforts. Connecting this argument to recent scholarship on policy feedback, we pursue a quantitative case study of the potential for new policies to move public opinion. Our analysis reveals that welfare reform in the 1990s produced few changes in mass opinion. To explain this result, we propose a general framework for the analysis of mass feedback effects. After locating welfare as a “distant-visible” case in this framework, we advance four general propositions that shed light on our case-specific findings as well as the general conditions under which mass feedback effects should be viewed as more or less likely.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Joe Soss is Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 110 North Hall, 1050 Bascom Mall, Madison, WI 53706 (jbsoss@wisc.edu).
Sanford F. Schram is Visiting Professor, Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, Bryn Mawr College, 300 Airdale Road, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010-1697 (sschram@brynmawr.edu).

References

Hide All
Block Fred, Richard A. Cloward, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Frances Fox Piven. 1987. The Mean Season. New York: Pantheon Books.
Bowman Kathryn. 2003. “Attitudes about Welfare ReformAEI Studies in Public Opinion. Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute.
Campbell Andrea Louise. 2003. How Policies Make Citizens: Senior Political Activism and the American Welfare State. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Cook Thomas, and Donald Campbell. 1979. Quasi-Experimentation: Design and Analysis Issues in Field Settings. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
DeParle Jason. 1999. “The Silence of the Liberals: Liberals Need to be More Active in Welfare Reform.” Washington Monthly 51 (April): 12.
DeParle Jason, and Steven A. Holmes. 2000. “A War on Poverty Subtly Linked to Race.” New York Times, December 26: A1.
Devitt James. 2002. “Six Years After Welfare Reform, Public Opposition to Welfare Spending Declines.” Columbia News. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/news/02/04/welfare_spending.htm.
Dewey John. 1927. The Public and Its Problems. New York: Holt.
Dyck Joshua J., Laura Hussey, and Linda Williams. 2005. “The End of Welfare As We Know It?” http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/apworkshop/DHW.pd.
Easton David. 1953. The Political System: An Inquiry into the State of Political Science. New York: Knopf.
Edelman Murray. 1964. The Symbolic Uses of Politics. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Edelman Murray. 1971. Politics as Symbolic Action. New York: Academic Press.
Edelman Murray. 1977. Political Language: Words that Succeed and Policies That Fail. New York: Academic Press.
Edelman Murray. 1988. Constructing the Political Spectacle. University of Chicago Press.
Edsall Thomas Byrne with Mary D. Edsall. 1991. Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics. New York: Knopf.
Ellwood David. 1988. Poor Support: Poverty in the American Family. New York: Basic Books.
Fiorina Morris P. 1981. Retrospective Voting in American National Elections. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Fung Archon. 2004. Empowered Participation: Reinventing Urban Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Fung Archon. 2004. Empowered Participation: Reinventing Urban Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
George Alexander L., and Andrew Bennett. 2005. Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Gilens Martin. 1999. Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Glazer Nathan. 1995. “Making Work Work: Welfare Reform in the 1990s.” In ed. D. S. Nightingale and R. H. Haveman. The Work Alternative: Welfare Reform and the Realities of the Job Market. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press. pp. 1732.
Gordon Linda. 1994. Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare. New York: The Free Press.
Gusfield Joseph. 1963. Symbolic Crusade. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
Hacker Jacob S. 2002. The Divided Welfare State: The Battle of Public and Private Social Benefits in the United States. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Hacker Jacob S. 2004a. “After Welfare.” The New Republic. October 11.
Hacker Jacob S. 2004b. “Privatizing Risk without Privatizing the Welfare State: The Hidden Politics of Social Policy Retrenchment in the United States.” American Political Science Review. 98 (May): 24360.
Hacker Jacob, and Paul Pierson. 2005. Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Hancock Ange-Marie. 2004. The Politics of Disgust: The Public Identity of the Welfare Queen. New York: New York University Press.
Handler Joel F., and Yeheskel Hasenfeld. 1991. The Moral Construction of Poverty. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Harrington Michael. 1962. The Other America: Poverty in the United States. New York: MacMillan.
Heclo Hugh. 2001. “The Politics of Welfare Reform.” In The New World of Welfare. ed. R. Blank and R. Haskins. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. pp. 169200.
Hetling Andrea, Monika L. McDermott, and Mingus Mapps. 2006. “Does Policy Affect Public Opinion: The Case of 1996 U.S. Welfare Reforms.” Unpublished Manuscript.
Hochschild Jennifer, and Nathan Scovronick. 2004. The American Dream and the Public Schools. New York: Oxford University Press.
Howard Christopher. 1997. The Hidden Welfare State: Tax Expenditures and Social Policy in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Jacobs Lawrence R., and Theda Skocpol, eds. 2005. Inequality and American Democracy: What We Know and What We Need to Learn. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Jencks Christopher. 2005. “What Happened to Welfare?” The New York Review of Books. 52 (20).
Judd Charles M., and Bernadette Park. 1988. “Out-Group Homogeneity: Judgments of Variability at the Individual and Group Levels.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 54: 77888.
Katz Michael B. 1989. The Undeserving Poor. New York: Pantheon.
Katz Michael B., and Lorrin R. Thomas. 1998. “The Invention of ‘Welfare’ in America.” Journal of Policy History 10 (December): 399418.
Katznelson Ira. 2005. When Affirmative Action was White: An Untold History of Racial Ineguality in Twentieth-Century America. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.
Kaus Mickey. 1996. The Revival of Liberalism. New York Times, August 9: A27.
Kaus Mickey. 1992. The End of Equality. New York: Basic Books.
Kellstedt Paul M. 2003. The Mass Media and the Dynamics of American Racial Attitudes. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Key V. O. Jr., 1964. Public Opinion and American Democracy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Khong Yuen Foong. 1992. Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Korpi Walter. 2003. Welfare-State Regress in Western Europe: Politics, Institutions, Globalization, and Europeanization.” Annual Review of Sociology 29: 589609.
Kuklinski James H., and Paul J. Quirk. 2000. “Reconsidering the Rational Public: Cognition, Heuristics, and Mass Opinion.” In ed. A. Lupia, M. D. McCubbins, and S. L. Popkin. Elements of Reason: Cognition, Choice, and the Bounds of Rationality. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 15382.
Lakoff George. 2002. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Lippmann Walter. 1922. Public Opinion. New York: MacMillan.
Lowi Theodore. 1964. American Business, Public Policy, Case-Studies, and Political Theory. World Politics 16 (July): 677715.
Marshall Will. 2002. “After Dependence.” Blueprint, January 22: http://www.ndol.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=250080&kaid=114&subid=143.
McGarty Craig. 1999. Categorization in Social Psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Mead Lawrence M. 2001. “The Politics of Conservative Welfare Reform.” In ed. R. Blank and R. Haskins, The New World of Welfare. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Mead Lawrence M. 1992. The New Politics of Poverty: The Nonworking Poor in America. New York: Basic Books.
Mead Lawrence M. 2004. Government Matters: Welfare Reform in Wisconsin. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Mead Lawrence M. 2005. “Welfare Reform and Citizenship.” In L. M. Mead and C. Beem, eds. Welfare Reform and Political Theory. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation. Pp. 17299.
Mettler Suzanne. 2002. “Bringing the State Back in to Civic Engagement: Policy Feedback Effects of the G.I Bill for World War II Veterans.” American Political Science Review 96 (June): 35165.
Mettler Suzanne. 2005. Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Mettler Suzanne, and Joe Soss. 2004. The Consequences of Public Policy for Democratic Citizenship: Bridging Policy Studies and Mass Politics. Perspectives on Politics 2 (March): 5573.
Meyerson Harold. 1996. Wither the Democrats. The American Prospect Online. March 1: http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww? section=root&name=ViewPrint&articleId=4945.
Mills C. Wright. 1959. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press.
Pierson Paul. 1993. “When Effect Becomes Cause: Policy Feedback and Political Change.” World Politics 45 (July): 595628.
Pierson Paul. 1994. Dismantling the Welfare State? Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of Retrenchment. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Pierson Paul. 2004. Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Piven Frances Fox, and Richard A. Cloward. 1982. “The American Road to Democratic Socialism.” Democracy 3 (3): 5869.
Schattschneider E. E. 1935. Politics, Pressure, and the Tariff. New York: Prentice Hall.
Schneider Anne, and Helen Ingram. 1997. Policy Design for Democracy. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
Schneider Saundra K., and William G. Jacoby. 2005. “Elite Discourse and American Public Opinion: The Case of Welfare Spending.” Political Research Quarterly 58 (3): 36779.
Schram Sanford F. 1995. Words of Welfare: The Poverty of Social Science and the Social Science of Poverty. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Shaw Greg M., and Robert Y. Shapiro. 2002. “The Polls—Trends: Poverty and Public Assistance.” Public Opinion Quarterly 66 (Winter): 10528.
Skocpol Theda. 1992. Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Skocpol Theda. 1995. Social Policy in the United States: Future Possibilities in Historical Perspective. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Skocpol Theda. 1996. “Bury It: Welfare: Where Do We Go From Here?The New Republic 215 (7): 2021.
Skocpol Theda. 2000. The Missing Middle. New York: Norton.
Somers Margaret R., and Fred Block. 2005. “From Poverty to Perversity: Ideas, Markets, and Institutions over 200 Years of Welfare Debate.” American Sociological Review 70 (2): 26087.
Soss Joe. 2000. Unwanted Claims: The Politics of Participation in the U.S. Welfare System. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Soss Joe, and Danielle LeClair. 2004. “Race, Sex, and the Implicit Politics of Welfare Reform.” Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association, April.
Sparks Holloway. 2003. ”Queens, Teens, and Model Mothers: Race, Gender, and the Discourse of Welfare Reform.” In Race and the Politics of Welfare Reform. ed. Sanford F. Schram, Joe Soss, and Richard Fording. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Teixeira Ruy, and Joel Rogers. 2000. America's Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters. New York: Basic Books.
Teles Stephen M. 1996. Whose Welfare? AFDC and Elite Policies. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
Thelen Kathleen. 2003. “How Institutions Evolve: Insights from Comparative Historical Analysis.” In Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences, ed. J. Mahoney and D. Rueschemeyer. New York: Cambridge University.
Uggen Christopher, and Jeff Manza. 2002. “Democratic Contraction: Political Consequences of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States.” American Sociological Review 67 (6): 777803.
Weaver R. Kent. 2000. Ending Welfare as We Know It. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Weaver R. Kent. 2002. “Polls, Priming, and the Politics of Welfare Reform.” In Navigating Public Opinion, ed. J. Manza, F. L. Cook, and B. I. Page. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 10623.
Wilson James Q. 1973. Political Organizations. New York: Basic Books.
Wilson William Julius. 1999. Bridge Over the Racial Divide. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Winter Nicholas J. G. 2006. “Beyond Welfare: Framing and Racialization of White Opinion on Social Security.” American Journal of Political Science 50 (2): 40020.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

A Public Transformed? Welfare Reform as Policy Feedback

  • JOE SOSS (a1) and SANFORD F. SCHRAM (a2)

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.