Recent studies of welfare state attitudes in the knowledge economy find very high generalized support for generous welfare state policies, both among the working and the middle classes. Has class become irrelevant as a predictor of social policy preferences? Or do we simply mis-conceptualise today's class conflict over social policy? To what extent has it changed from a divide over the level of social policy generosity to a divide over the kind of social policy and - more specifically - over the relative importance that should be given to different social policies? Answering these questions is not only relevant to understand welfare politics in the twenty-first century, but electoral politics as well: only when we understand what working- and middle-class voters care about, can we evaluate the role distributive policies play in electoral processes. We use original survey data from eight West European countries to show that middle- and working-class respondents indeed differ in the relative importance they attribute to social investment and social consumption policies. Middle-class respondents consistently attribute higher absolute and relative importance to social investment. We also show that this emphasis on investive policies relates to the middle class expecting better future economic and social opportunities than the working class. This divide in anticipated opportunities underlies a new kind of working- versus middle-class divide, which contributes to transforming the class divide from a conflict over the level of social policy to a conflict over the priorities of social policy.
|Number of pages||23|
|Journal||European journal of political research|
|Early online date||31 May 2021|
|Publication status||Published - 31 May 2021|
- ELECTORAL COMPETITION
- knowledge economy
- social policy