Strünck: Public pushing for pension reform? The short-term impact of media coverage on long-term policy making in Germany, Britain and the United States

From the chapter:

Pension reform has been on the agenda in Western welfare states for two decades now. However, the mass media rarely scoop with these issues. This is because pension politics is mostly confined to policy networks that deal with technically complex questions and have established enduring relationships. Pension politics means long-term policy making that affects present and future generations, too. This is why in most democracies party competition is low and consensus building high when it comes to tinkering with pension schemes. But new ideas have emerged that can help to bypass the complexity of pension systems. Privatization of public pension stands at the forefront of these ideas which are evenly spread across different countries and welfare states. In Germany, Britain, and the United States, governments have tried to enact laws that boost private savings.

This chapter does not aim to trace the ideological heritage of privatization in pension politics. It raises questions on the role of mass media and public opinion in shaping pension reforms. How do media coverage and public opinion shape a policy which is often deeply rooted in secretive, consensus-oriented institutions? Is long-term policy making substituted by rather short-term activities of governments? Do certain actors gain more influence when pension reform turns into a high key issue in the mass media?

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