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Welfare state values in the European Union, 2002–2008. A multilevel investigation of formal institutions and individual attitudes

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This article investigates to what extent EU citizens support three dimensions of welfare state values – developed role of state, equal opportunities and equal outcomes – and whether national level institutions and social policies can explain cross-national variation in these values. Two different mechanisms are distinguished, namely that institutions can have a norm-shaping function and thus are associated with stronger public support or that the public opinion can function as a thermostat if they are dissatisfied with the current institutions. Using data from 150,000 citizens of 25 EU countries between 2002 and 2008, empirical evidence for both the norm-shaping and the thermostat functions are found. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.
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Keywords: European Social Model; institutions; multilevel analysis; norm-shaping function; thermostat function; welfare state values

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 August 2012

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