Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy 29(1) pp 28-47
Over recent decades there has been an international shift towards multi-level governance. Against this backdrop, many comparative welfare studies take government policy outputs as the starting point for their analysis. However, the associated pluralization of electoral systems in unitary states means that welfare choices are no longer exclusively informed by single state-wide ballots. Accordingly, this study makes an original contribution by exploring the formative role of electoral discourse in shaping social policy divergence in (quasi-)federal states. It does this through an examination of party politicization and the issue-salience of homelessness in manifestos for UK state-wide and regional elections. The findings reveal how electoral discourse is a key driver of policy divergence. These territorially-specific structural narratives are used to propose a model of welfare divergence in multi-level systems, one that is cognizant of the formative role of electoral discourse in shaping the development of welfare regimes.