Positive or Negative Policy Feedbacks? Explaining Popular Attitudes Towards Pragmatic Pension Policy Reforms Articles uri icon

publication date

  • August 2013

start page

  • 803

end page

  • 815


  • 4


  • 29

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0266-7215

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1468-2672


  • Recent decades have seen increased interest in public attitudes towards public pension policies. Most previous research, however, relies heavily on dependent variables that fail to reflect the effective alternatives being discussed in most affluent democracies. This article seeks to improve our understanding of public attitudes towards pragmatic welfare policy options by examining cross-national differences in attitudes towards (i) cuts in old-age pension benefits, (ii) increases in social security contributions, and (iii) increases in the statutory retirement age. We test predictions of the dominant positive policy feedback theory and the alternative negative policy feedback theory. These approaches argue that policies induce consequences and attitudes that reinforce (positive feedback) or undermine (negative feedback) past policymaking trajectories. Empirical results obtained by multilevel analyses from a sample of 27 European countries are consistent mainly with the negative feedback approach. In countries with higher statutory retirement ages, citizens are more likely to support a postponement of retirement. However, in countries with higher elderly poverty, citizens are less likely to support cuts in pension benefits. In countries with higher social security contributions, citizens are less likely to support further increases in these contributions.


  • ppublic pension policies; social security