Title: Public Support for State Redistribution in Times of Increasing Inequalities
Subtitle: A Cross-National Comparative Trend Analysis of Fifteen Countries
To what extent do people in different countries and welfare states think that their governments are responsible to reduce these income differences? Is there any evidence that citizens throughout the 1990s and 2000s have legitimated the rising levels of inequality? In democratic societies public support plays an important role in political decisions and may directly and indirectly impact social structural changes. Since welfare states incorporate distributive norms and standards of social justice, countries were selected along the line of ideal-typical welfare-state regimes (WFS): Norway and Sweden as representatives of the social democratic WFS, West-Germany and Austria as conservative WFS, the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia as liberal WFS. In addition Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, East Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia were included as contrasting post-state-socialist countries.
Using data from the ISSP, distinct cross-country variation, largely inconsistent with the classical regime-typologies, and rather constant attitudes towards state redistribution get obvious. There is no clear evidence that people normatively accommodate to growing income gaps. Regarding the still highest preference for state redistribution in the wealthier and less wealthy post-socialist countries it seems that indeed „the identities and interests of social actors are (…) created in a process where the institutional frame work within which people act, and the historical traditions through which events and processes are interpreted, have a decisive impact“ (Svallfors 1997: 291).