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Do increasing reform pressures change welfare state attitudes? An experimental study on population ageing, pension reform preferences, political knowledge and ideology


It is a perennial issue in the public and the scientific debate whether increased pressures to reform due to the financial crisis or population ageing erode welfare state support. Surprisingly, our knowledge of how individuals change their attitudes in hard times is still limited – both theoretically and empirically. We rely on newly available data from a survey experiment in a representative German online survey and exogenously manipulate the perceived pressure to reform (due to an ageing society). We show that people indeed change their reform preferences when faced with an ageing society: the strong opposition to increasing the retirement age decreases. Further analyses reveal that not all groups within society react to increased reform pressures in the same way: political knowledge but also political partisanship do moderate the strength and the direction of the attitude change.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Elias Naumann, SFB 884 ‘The Political Economy of Reforms’, University of Mannheim, L 13 17, 68161 Mannheim, Germany E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
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  • EISSN: 1469-1779
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