The Journal of Politics

Articles

Crowding Out Culture: Scandinavians and Americans Agree on Social Welfare in the Face of Deservingness Cues

Lene Aarøea1 and Michael Bang Petersena2

a1 Aarhus University

a2 Aarhus University

Abstract

A robust finding in the welfare state literature is that public support for the welfare state differs widely across countries. Yet recent research on the psychology of welfare support suggests that people everywhere form welfare opinions using psychological predispositions designed to regulate interpersonal help giving using cues regarding recipient effort. We argue that this implies that cross-national differences in welfare support emerge from mutable differences in stereotypes about recipient efforts rather than deep differences in psychological predispositions. Using free-association tasks and experiments embedded in large-scale, nationally representative surveys collected in the United States and Denmark, we test this argument by investigating the stability of opinion differences when faced with the presence and absence of cues about the deservingness of specific welfare recipients. Despite decades of exposure to different cultures and welfare institutions, two sentences of information can make welfare support across the U.S. and Scandinavian samples substantially and statistically indistinguishable.

Footnotes

  Lene Aarøe is an Assistant Professor at Department of Political Science and Government, Aarhus University, Aarhus, DK-8000, Denmark.

  Michael Bang Petersen is a Professor at Department of Political Science and Government, Aarhus University, Aarhus, DK-8000, Denmark.

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