Taking social policy personally: How does neuroticism affect welfare state attitudes?

Markus Tepe, Pieter Vanhuysse*

*Kontaktforfatter for dette arbejde

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The role of the “Big Five” personality traits in driving welfare state attitudes has received scant attention in social policy research. Yet neuroticism in particular—a disposition to stress, worry, and get nervous easily—is theoretically likely to be an important driver of welfare attitudes precisely because welfare states deliver social “security” and “safety” nets. Using cross-sectional data from the German Socio-Economic Panel, we study three distinct attitude types (dissatisfaction with the social security system, feelings of personal financial insecurity, and preferences for state provision) and multiple social need contexts (including unemployment, ill health, old age, and nursing care). Controlling for established explanations such as self-interest, partisanship, and socialization, neuroticism does not systematically affect support for state provision. But it robustly increases general dissatisfaction with social security, as well as financial insecurity across various need contexts. Neurotic people are thus less happy with welfare state programmes across the board, yet they also appear to need these programmes more. This trait may be an important deeper layer driving other social attitudes.

TidsskriftSocial Policy and Administration
Udgave nummer5
Sider (fra-til)699-718
StatusUdgivet - sep. 2020


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