Journal of Social Policy


Economic Strain and Public Support for Redistribution: A Comparative Analysis of 28 European Countries


Department of Sociology and Social Work, University of Agder, 4604 Kristiansand, Norway email:


Is public support for redistribution affected by the number of people experiencing economic strain in a country? This question is investigated by comparing twenty-eight countries in the fourth round of the European Social Survey 2008–09 using two-level linear regression models. The results show that individuals reporting economic strain support redistribution more strongly than those who do not experience economic strain. Further, individuals living in countries where many other people report economic strain also support redistribution more strongly than individuals living in countries with less economic strain. The latter correlation is not explained by objective measures of the economic situation such as household income or the income dispersal of the country. The country-level effect of economic strain holds for all income levels. It is largely driven by a tendency to strongly believe in redistribution when living in countries of widespread economic strain. The results indicate that governments would receive more rather than less public support for redistributive policies during periods of economic strain.