Assessing the Influence of Global Inequalities and Public Policies Indicators on Support for State: Insights for Welfare State Sustainability and Democracy Responsiveness

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 5:45 PM
Room: Booth 53
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
Public support for welfare state has been shown to be sensitive to economic conjuncture; e.g., to lower with increasing unemployment or inflation rates, and to raise with gross domestic product (Erikson, MacKuen & Stimson, 2002).

Contrasting with the comparative welfare state literature, that usually focuses on social indicators’ annual figures or covers only short time spans, we will adopt a long period perspective and explore how social indicators’ overtime evolutions influence support for state since the 80s. We will use multilevel modeling with pooled data from the ISSP Role of Government, a survey module that has been repeated four times in an increasing number of countries since 1985.

This presentation will deal mainly with global inequalities and public policies indicators. Mixed findings stem from the exploratory analysis. Strong income inequalities are found to fuel support for government, thereby expressing a growing demand for state protection. But more subtle variations appear when we consider the Gini evolution. Support for state appears to be less important in countries where the Gini has increased, suggesting a threshold effect (increasing inequalities usually lower public trust in institutions, and hence dwarf support for state intervention).

The impact of social expenses is only partly as expected. Europeans are all the more in favor of state since they live in countries with low social expenses. However, when social expenses increase, support for state also increases. It indicates that the general public tends to react when political elites answer to social demand, but does not necessarily react according to a “thermostatic” pattern (Wliezen, 1995). Thus, our findings will also raise substantial issues regarding welfare sustainability and democracy responsiveness; e.g., help to understand how public opinion is shaped by previous levels of policy outputs and how government policies answer to prior changes in mass opinion.