Claiming blame and giving credit? Unintended effects of how government and opposition frame the Europeanization of welfare
A framing experiment on the Europeanization of health care supports two assumptions derived from the â€˜blame avoidanceâ€™ literature. The constrained perceptions assumption states that performance evaluations at different political levels have â€˜zero-sumâ€™ implications for each other. Empirically, those receiving positive integration frames become not only more positive about the European Union (EU) level, but also more negative about domestic performance (even though frames about such a performance were not provided). The opposite is found for negative frames. Further, the negative bias assumption implies that zero-sum adjustments are best triggered by negative blame frames rather than by positive â€˜creditâ€™ frames. Finally, in contrast to standard blame avoidance assumptions, the experiment mimics the realistic situation in which the opposition attacks integration and the government defends it. This reverses the prototypical blame avoidance situation and opens the way for unintended effects. Governments may paint EU-induced conditions in rosy colours, reflecting negatively on its domestic performance. Conversely, the opposition runs the risk of being too gloomy about integration for its own good, as negative EU welfare frames reflect positively on domestic performance.
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