In the Eye of the Beholder: Students' Attitudes on Inequality in the European Economic Crisis
On the contrary, laypersons’ perceptions and beliefs have largely remained uncovered, even though their perspective determines future policy decisions based on their vote choice in national and European parliamentary elections. In this context, the attitudes of young voters in the EU are particularly crucial since these individuals will experience the social, political, and economic repercussions of the European crisis most directly in their own lives. The European economic crisis thus provides an instructive setting to empirically investigate the intricate interplay between perceptions of economic inequality, distributive preferences, and political outcomes.
In detail, this study presents findings from a large-scale survey of social science and economics students (n > 1,500) enrolled at two major German universities. The analysis controls for a wide range of educational, political, and socioeconomic variables and examines students’ perceptions and evaluations of the European economic crisis in terms of its antecedents, effects, and political responses. In particular, the analysis applies latent concept measurements in combination with predefined sets of statements on diverse aspects of the crisis. In this way, the survey allows to capture those attitudinal components which determine (a) students’ awareness of inequality, (b) the accuracy and coherence of their perceptions, and (c) the political impact of their predispositions. The results will shed light on the conditional nature of politically efficacious representations of social and economic justice.