Perceptions of Healthcare Systems, Family Policy and Benefits for the Unemployed and Poor in Europe
Chapter 6: Conclusion: Comparing Public Attitudes in Three Fields of Social Policy
Welfare state institutions provoke substantial variations in public support of social policy. The idea behind this argument rooted in institutional theory is that established social policy institutions can serve as ‘markers of certainty’ (Eisenstadt 2003). Therefore, depending on the respective institutional design, people either trust that they will receive welfare state support when in need, or they do not. Although the specific focus of our analysis on differences in public opinion among socio-economic groups required the use of multivariate models, sometimes resulting in rather technical terminology, we deal with essential questions of human life. Our results demonstrate that citizens in European countries have a great trust in existing social policy programs and perceive the state to be essentially responsible for the provision of social transfers and services for the overall population. A privatization of healthcare, for instance, is clearly rejected. Since trust can take a long time to develop and be easily destroyed, our results inform politicians to be particularly cautious with plans for privatizing healthcare and other social policy institutions. At the same time, welfare state institutions have contributed to a greater trust, or bond, among citizens. Like other scholars’ work (see Section 2.2) our analysis finds high solidarity among social groups and often a great willingness of the better-off to support weaker members of the society. Thus, at the national level, solidarity is still very high among citizens of European countries, even though we also identified a polarization of public attitudes among population groups. These differences are, in...
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