Deservingness perceptions in European welfare states: Comparative analyses of public opinion on the social rights and duties of needy groups.
In welfare states different groups of needy people are treated differently. For some groups social protection is more easily accessible, more generous, longer lasting, and/or less subjected to reciprocal obligations than for other groups. Generally, such differential treatment is assumed to be influenced by economic (e.g. less protection for less productive groups), political (e.g. better protection for groups with stronger lobbies) and cultural factors (e.g. better protection for ‘our kind of’ people, or for ‘well-behaving’ people). This project aims to contribute to a cultural understanding of welfare distribution by analysing public images of needy groups, and popular perceptions of their welfare deservingness. Such knowledge is highly relevant in times of economic crisis and the resulting calls for welfare reform. This project combines various comparative surveys with economic and institutional context data to tackle three broad research questions. First, we give a description of the rank order of welfare deservingness of needy groups in selected welfare states, and explain individual differences in deservingness opinions by means social-structural positions and ideological dispositions. Second, we try to explain differences in deservingness opinions across European welfare states by means of economic and institutional context variables. Third, we study short-term as well as long-term changes in European deservingness opinions.