The current UK government's policies include headlong spending cuts and a far-reaching restructuring of public provision. State welfare arguably contributes to political legitimacy and social stability, as well as to better social conditions and economic prosperity. The fact that current policies bear disproportionately on lower income groups may damage legitimacy.
This article analyses a dataset covering twenty-six countries for more than two decades to show that spending cuts, privatisation and increases in poverty undermine legitimacy. It uses a direct measure of legitimacy in terms of the frequency of riots and political demonstrations and strikes, rather than the usual indirect measures in terms of attitudes and trust in government. Findings in relation to the increased work-centredness of the benefit and labour market reforms are more equivocal: a stricter benefit regime may not undermine legitimacy.
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