The Social Legitimacy of Targeted Welfare
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The Social Legitimacy of Targeted Welfare

Attitudes to Welfare Deservingness

Edited by Wim van Oorschot, Femke Roosma, Bart Meuleman and Tim Reeskens

This book addresses new perspectives on the perceived popular deservingness of target groups of social services and benefits, offering new insights and analysis to this quickly developing field of welfare attitudes research. It provides an up-to-date state of the art in terms of concepts, theories, research methods and data. The book offers a multi-disciplinary view on deservingness attitudes, with contributions from sociology, political science, media studies and social psychology. It links up with central welfare state debates about the allocation of collective resources between groups with particular needs, and wider categories of need.
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Chapter 15: Leap of Faith or Judgment of Deservingness? Generalized Trust, Trust in Immigrants and Support for the Welfare State

Staffan Kumlin, Dag Wollebæk, Audun Fladmoe and Kari Steen-Johnsen


In several chapters in this book it is demonstrated that views about deservingness affect support for the welfare state. Citizens seem to have the capacity to judge deservingness by applying multiple criteria to individual situations and to broad groups, and to draw conclusions about policy accordingly. This chapter, however, puts the deservingness storyline to the test by contrasting it with the view that it is more generalized trust in, and perceptions of, ‘most people’ that really structure support for the welfare state. From this viewpoint, judging deservingness is difficult and time consuming, and citizens do not always have the necessary information. They might therefore rely on generalized heuristics and shortcuts and decide whether to take a ‘leap of faith’ and trust recipients to conform to norms for deservingness. Therefore, it may not be perceptions and attitudes concerning specific groups that matter, but instead deeper, stable inclinations to trust and think well of people in general.

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