Values and welfare state attitudes : The interplay between human values, attitudes and redistributive institutions across national contexts

Abstract: While there is much research aiming to assess the determinants of welfare state attitudes, there are not many studies focussing on how human values influence attitude formation. This thesis explores the relationship between values and welfare state attitudes across national contexts. In doing so, it focuses on the moderating influence of contextual factors on the values-attitudes link.In order to measure values properly, and to study their effects on welfare state attitudes, confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and multi-group structural equation modelling (MGSEM) is used. These methods enable testing for measurement equivalence across groups, a prerequisite for comparing the effects of human values across countries. The individual-level data used in this thesis comes from the European Social Survey (ESS) between 2002-08.The findings show that values can play an important role in welfare state attitude formation, but that the impact of values on attitudes differs considerably across national contexts. Several country-specific contextual factors such as the generosity of redistributive institutions, their framing and their distributive outcomes moderates the values-attitudes link. In more generous welfare states and where redistributive issues are more articulated in the political debate, the impact of, for instance, egalitarian values on redistributive attitudes is comparably strong. Moreover, in countries where lower social classes are more exposed to risks and lack resources to meet these risks, class differences in the values-attitudes link are greater. Finally, the results show that the particular values that underlie welfare state attitudes in Eastern Europe are fundamentally different to those in Western Europe.The results imply that the impact of values on welfare state attitudes mainly depends on (i) whether people perceive welfare state institutions to have important consequences for the extent to which their values are attained, and (ii) the presence of competing motives. Hence, it is not necessarily the case that people who support the welfare state do so, for example, due to holding egalitarian values. In contrast to previous research, which has been quite unsuccessful in confirming direct relationships between institutions and attitudes, the results in this thesis suggest that there are indeed clear and consistent macro-micro relationships, but that these are more complex. Rather, it is in the interplay between values, attitudes and institutions that this relationship can be found.