Crisis, Class, and Social Policy: Public Opinion and Inequality

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW2.1.04 (Tower Two)
Alexander Horn, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Kees van Kersbergen, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Carsten Jensen, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Anthony Kevins, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
This paper examines the impact of class position on social policy preferences after the 2008 financial crisis. In the wake of the crisis, a strong surge in unemployment coincided with increased budgetary constraints in numerous European countries. The frequent result has been restrictions on benefit access for those in need, often couched in rhetoric concerning the deservingness of recipients. At the same time, these reforms have taken place during a period in which increasing attention has been given to one’s location in the income distribution – whether through reference to inequality per se (especially vis-à-vis the top percentile) or “the squeezed middle”. While numerous scholars have investigated the broader impact of the crisis on social policy preferences, this article will examine opinion trends in Europe across class groups and income deciles with an eye to the structure of inequality. In particular, we will: (1) explore the nature of the attitudinal gradient across the income deciles; (2) disaggregate these trends across welfare state types to investigate the relationship of programme structure to predominant class attitudes; and (3) highlight the impact of the structure of inequality on class preferences within these institutional contexts. Using data from the European Social Survey, our principal focus is on attitudes toward inequality, progressive taxation, and the benefits and drawbacks of the welfare state more broadly. The goal here is to investigate the impact of both social programme design and the structure of inequality on the interplay between attitudes and class position.