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“First the Grub, then the Morals”? Disentangling the Self-Interest and Ideological Drivers of Attitudes Towards Demanding Activation Policies in Belgium

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Following the shift towards an activating role of the European welfare states, there is increasing scholarly interest in public support for demanding activation policies that impose obligations on welfare recipients. Borrowing the classical theoretical frameworks used in welfare attitudes research, we aim to disentangle the effect of self-interest and ideological beliefs on support for demanding activation. Using data from the Belgian National Election Study (2014), we find that support for demanding activation is strongly related to authoritarian dispositions, work ethic and rejection of egalitarianism. For the social-structural variables, we find direct as well as indirect (that is, mediated by the ideological dimensions) effects. Controlling for ideology, social categories that are potentially most affected by welfare obligations – i.e. those currently unemployed, with a previous experience of unemployment and low-income individuals – are more likely to oppose demanding policies, which can be interpreted as a self-interest effect. The effects of educational level, conversely, are primarily mediated and should be understood in terms of ideological preferences rather than self-interest. Our results indicate that, when analysing support for specific welfare policies, attention needs to be paid to the interplay between self-interest and ideological preferences.
Journal: Journal of Social Policy
ISSN: 0047-2794
Issue: 2
Volume: 50
Pages: 1 - 21
Publication year:2021