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Redistribution attitudes and vote choice across the educational divide


Attewell, David (2022). Redistribution attitudes and vote choice across the educational divide. European Journal of Political Research, 61(4):1080-1101.

Abstract

How does the educational divide impact contemporary redistributive politics in the knowledge economy? Traditional political economy models which see education as a labour market asset predict the relatively secure educated will oppose redistribution, while the precarious less-educated will support it. In contrast, a conception of education as a marker of social status suggests that the less-educated may be more inclined than status-secure university graduates to draw harsh boundaries against welfare state beneficiaries as a means to maintain social esteem. Building on both theoretical approaches, I analyze 2016 European Social Survey data from 15 Western European countries. I find that education has a negative relationship to support for an expansive welfare state. By contrast, education is strongly positively associated with perceptions of welfare state beneficiaries as deserving.

This has implications for education as a structural divide in electoral politics. Evidence that attitudes towards the scope of the welfare state mediate the effects of education on vote choice is mixed. However, KHB mediation analyses decomposing the effects of education on vote choice reveal that deservingness perceptions are a particularly substantial mediator of education effects on voting for radical right and green parties. This explains in part why these parties represent the poles of the educational divide, whose attitudinal basis is usually understood to be socio-cultural rather than redistributive.

Abstract

How does the educational divide impact contemporary redistributive politics in the knowledge economy? Traditional political economy models which see education as a labour market asset predict the relatively secure educated will oppose redistribution, while the precarious less-educated will support it. In contrast, a conception of education as a marker of social status suggests that the less-educated may be more inclined than status-secure university graduates to draw harsh boundaries against welfare state beneficiaries as a means to maintain social esteem. Building on both theoretical approaches, I analyze 2016 European Social Survey data from 15 Western European countries. I find that education has a negative relationship to support for an expansive welfare state. By contrast, education is strongly positively associated with perceptions of welfare state beneficiaries as deserving.

This has implications for education as a structural divide in electoral politics. Evidence that attitudes towards the scope of the welfare state mediate the effects of education on vote choice is mixed. However, KHB mediation analyses decomposing the effects of education on vote choice reveal that deservingness perceptions are a particularly substantial mediator of education effects on voting for radical right and green parties. This explains in part why these parties represent the poles of the educational divide, whose attitudinal basis is usually understood to be socio-cultural rather than redistributive.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Language:English
Date:1 November 2022
Deposited On:18 Jan 2022 09:15
Last Modified:27 Mar 2024 03:05
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0304-4130
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.12486
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)