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Policy feedback, generational replacement, and attitudes to state intervention: Eastern and Western Germany, 1990–2006

  • Stefan Svallfors (a1)


This paper tests contested arguments within the institutionalist literature about the relation between institutional and attitudinal changes, using the reunified Germany as a case. Eastern Germany constitutes a case approaching a ‘natural experiment’ for the social sciences, being twice the receiver of externally imposed institutions. It, therefore, provides a unique opportunity to closely analyse institutional effects on attitudes, as in this particular case, the time order of institutional and attitudinal changes can actually be decided. Using data from the International Social Survey Program modules on ‘The Role of Government’ (1990, 1996, and 2006), attitudes towards government responsibilities are compared in Eastern and Western Germany, and to other countries. Results show a considerable convergence in attitudes between Eastern and Western Germany – attitudes in Western Germany are completely stable while attitudes in Eastern Germany become, overtime, more similar to those found in the West. Furthermore, comparisons of different birth cohorts show that while considerable attitude differences between Eastern and Western Germany are still found in 2006 among those who had their forming experiences before the fall of the wall, differences are virtually nil among those who were still children in 1989. In summary, the analysis provides strong support for the attitude-forming effects of institutions, and a clear vindication of institutional theories. It also points to generational replacement as a key mechanism in translating institutional change into attitudinal change.


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Policy feedback, generational replacement, and attitudes to state intervention: Eastern and Western Germany, 1990–2006

  • Stefan Svallfors (a1)


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