Public Support for the American Welfare State before, during, and after the Great Recession

Saturday, June 25, 2016: 10:45 AM-12:15 PM
105 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Joshua R. Bruce, Duke University, Durham, NC
Social scientists have long studied how the United States public responds to economic events, particularly their support for the welfare state. This research took on new urgency following the Great Recession, and scholars have reached conflicting conclusions about Americans’ responses to the latest economic downturn. This paper uses panel and cross-sectional data to assess how Americans responded to economic loss following the Great Recession and in the thirty years preceding it. Contrary to some research, this analysis finds a strong link between economic loss and increased support for the welfare state. This relationship is affected by political ideology, and, at least in the years of the Obama presidency, by race-related beliefs. The paper concludes by discussing the underlying shift in American political affiliation, which appears to be driven in part by increasing affluence of political party affiliates. Implications for the US political system and future research are addressed.