The institutional foundation of social class differences in pro-redistribution attitudes: a cross-national analysis, 1985-2010

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Oxford University Press
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Our understanding of cross-national differences in the relationship between social class location and voting choices has improved substantially in the last decade. Yet scholarship about cross-national and longitudinal variations in the relationship between class location and policy preferences remains neglected. This paper addresses this important gap in the literature through a comparative, longitudinal analysis of the substantial, cross-national variation of class differences in pro-redistribution attitudes. To explain this variation, we focus on the role of preexisting policies and engage with an ongoing debate in the policy feedbacks literature. The self-interest approach argues that higher redistribution creates incentives among the upper classes to oppose redistribution, widening the class cleavage. By contrast, the normative approach argues that universal social policy regimes meet the fairness criteria of middle and upper classes, thereby reducing attitudinal differences. Using an innovative data set containing 106 country-years between 1985 and 2010, our study supports the self-interest approach. Countries achieving more redistribution display larger class cleavages in pro-redistribution attitudes, while universalism does not reduce this divide. The study further shows that redistribution and class cleavage are linearly related because redistribution bolsters the already low commitment with inequality reduction in the upper service and lower service classes.
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Fernández, J. J., & Jaime-Castillo, A. M. (2018). The Institutional Foundation of Social Class Differences in Pro-redistribution Attitudes: A Cross-National Analysis, 1985–2010. Social Forces, 96 (3), pp. 1009-1038.