In the Eye of the Beholder: Students' Attitudes on Inequality in the European Economic Crisis

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 4C KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Tim ENGARTNER, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
Till VAN TREECK, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Eva SCHWEITZER, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
Silvia BLUM, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Philipp KORTENDIEK, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
The European economic crisis has triggered widespread public debates about social justice and solidarity in the EU. This includes supranational controversies on financial aids and debt reliefs for member states as well as national discussions on the fairness and adequacy of distributional policy measures. For the main part, these debates have been initiated and framed by political elites.

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.