Changing public support for welfare sanctioning in Britain and the Netherlands: A persuasion experiment

Anouk Kootstra*, Femke Roosma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


During the last few decades, welfare sanctioning has come to play an increasingly central role in the institutional design of, and the philosophical and political approach to, most welfare states. Although much attention has been given to the morality and effectiveness of such policies, there is limited research that examines their social legitimacy. In this article we map public support for welfare sanctioning for unemployed people who do not want to accept jobs with wages or skill levels lower than their previous jobs. Our main contribution to the literature lies in the aim to discover how the social legitimacy of this policy can be increased or reduced by providing moral and economic counterarguments in a persuasion experiment. We use five waves of panel data administered in 2014-15 among approximately 9,000 respondents in Britain and the Netherlands. We show that support for welfare sanctioning is high in the two countries. Findings indicate that arguments opposing the policy reduce support to a greater extent than arguments in favor of the policy are able to improve its social legitimacy. We found moral arguments, considering the well-being of unemployed people, to be more effective than economic arguments focusing on the effects of the policy on welfare spending. In Britain, people are more persistent in their support than in the Netherlands, which could be because the debate on this topic is more polarized in Britain. Also, people with higher political interests, higher education, and men are less likely to change opinions after being confronted with counterarguments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-861
JournalSocial Policy & Administration
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • attitude change
  • persuasion
  • survey experiment
  • welfare attitudes
  • welfare sanctioning
  • POOR
  • WORK


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