by Heejung Chung (WelfSOC)
Research on welfare attitudes, or attitudes towards the welfare state has grown impressively over the past decade due to the increase in cross-nationally comparable large scale data, advancement in methods, but also due to the urgency of the topic in times of austerity, polarisation and the rise of populism in many welfare states. The new special issue of the journal Social Policy & Administration “Political Legitimacy and Welfare State Futures” contributes to this burgeoning field, by bringing together key contributions from four projects of the NORFACE Welfare State Futures initiative.
Cappelen et al. (FPRWS: Fairness, Personal Responsibility and the Welfare State) examines people’s preferences towards different austerity measures – namely, how people would trade off restrictions to eligibility criteria against cuts in benefit levels and/or benefit durations. They show how self-interest but more so ideologies shape in people’s preferences of the choices they make when cuts are inevitable.
Burlacu et al. (HEALTHDOX: The Paradox of Health State Futures) provides insights on how policy reforms shape/change people’s attitudes using a natural survey experiment. Their results show that people tend to operate in a framing that values the substantive worth of rights independent of their personal experience and utilization of services.
Taylor‐Gooby et al. (WelfSOC: Our Children’s Europe) uses an innovative method of Democratic Forums to examine not only of the welfare priorities that people share, but also of how they justify them and link them together. The results show that there is an overall underlying attitude, e.g., in the case of UK the unsustainability and inefficiencies of the welfare state, that link and shape people’s attitudes towards the more specific areas of the welfare state.
Lubbers et al. (MIFARE: Migrants’ Welfare State Attitudes) provide results from their original data that distinguishes 11 ethnic groups of migrants across three different countries. They find that self-interest and ideologies alone cannot completely explain away the differences between migrants and natives in their welfare attitudes, and the country of origin shapes attitudes migrants hold.
Kootstra and Roosma explores the use of moral as opposed to economic arguments in discussion of welfare conditionality. The results shows that arguments against welfare benefit sanctions, and moral arguments are generally more effective.
In sum, this special issue provides new methodological, conceptual insights to improve our understanding of welfare attitude and provide useful policy relevant findings that can help shape a brighter future for welfare states.