Comparing the Evolution of Attitudes Toward Government: Cross-Cutting Substantial and Methodological Issues

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:15 PM
Room: 416
Oral Presentation
Frédéric GONTHIER , Political studies, Université de Grenoble, 38040 Grenoble cedex 9, France
Frédéric GONTHIER , Political studies, Institut d'Etudes Politiques - Université de Grenoble, France., 38040 Grenoble cedex 9, France
While many scholars have used cross-national data to investigate attitudes toward welfare state in a comparative perspective, this topic has seldom been explored with pooled waves of surveys. A long lasting survey module such as the ISSP Role of Government, repeated four times since 1985, permits to gauge whether and how statist attitudes have moved since the 80s. But it is also particularly useful to question aggregate data analysis and its limitations. The goal of this presentation is to address the overtime evolution of support for State from both substantial and methodological perspectives.

First we disentangle the different dimensions of attitudes toward state, so as to compare the global trends across countries and assess the “values convergence” hypothesis (e.g., people are supposed to be less supportive of State due to globalization, individualization and postmaterialism). Hence we raise the issue of aggregate measurements of public opinion and their reliability through time and space.

Then we use multilevel modeling to look at the evolutions among subpublics; especially among middle classes and “transfer classes”, which have been found to be widely in favor of public policies. Complying with the literature showing that statist attitudes are linked to narrow personal interests, we find that demand for welfare is more important among the disadvantaged social groups. Thus we also cope with the problem of harmonized data and comparability of national contexts.

Our results finally provide evidence that support for State tends to move slowly and uniformly among subgroups and countries, thereby confirming the “parallel publics” thesis but strongly contrasting with the idea that welfare retrenchment has a direct impact on values and public opinion. Here we are faced with our last challenge: how global inequalities and public policies indicators can help to understand attitudes toward government?