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Suspicious minds: local context and attitude variation across Swedish municipalities
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2010 (English)In: International Journal of Social Welfare, ISSN 1369-6866, E-ISSN 1468-2397, Vol. 19, no 2, 225-235 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article investigates whether degree of suspicion of welfare abuse relates to local context in Sweden. It is suggested that certain features of Swedish municipalities can create a local information bias influencing individual suspicion of welfare abuse. Prevalence of social problems and political climate are features of the municipal context having the potential to influence opinion formation. Social problems are captured by local unemployment, social assistance and ill-health rates. Political climate is captured by electoral support for conservatives. The results indicate that local context can influence suspicion of welfare abuse, contexts where social problems are widespread reduce such suspicion. While local political climate seems important in itself, it also interacts with social problem level, increasing suspicion if a conservative political climate and social problems coexist. While social problems seem to generate less suspicion regarding social policy abuse, they also provide 'raw material' for political rhetoric regarding suspicion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Wiley Interscience , 2010. Vol. 19, no 2, 225-235 p.
Keyword [en]
attitudes, welfare state, contextual effects, municipalities, Sweden, multilevel, WELFARE-STATE, WORLDS
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-34536DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2397.2009.00656.xISI: 000274952000011OAI: diva2:322777
Available from: 2010-06-08 Created: 2010-06-08 Last updated: 2010-06-17Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Welfare state attitudes in context: local contexts and attitude formation in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Welfare state attitudes in context: local contexts and attitude formation in Sweden
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Welfare state attitudes are often studied from the perspective of the individual's characteristics and/or national or regime-type contexts. This thesis instead seeks explanations for individuals' varying attitudes towards the welfare state at the level of local contexts (municipalities). Sweden is used as a case for testing whether there are such contextual effects. The general aim is to find out whether social, political, and institutional aspects of local context influence the attitudes of individuals.

Since the general aim of this thesis is to examine how background characteristics of individuals and characteristics of local contexts simultaneously act in shaping individuals' attitudes, I use multilevel modelling in order to handle individual-level and contextual-level data simultaneously. Latent-class analysis (LCA) is also employed in the analyses to explore the patterning of variables. This is mainly done in order to create dependent variables and to distinguish between categories of municipalities sharing similar characteristics.  The data consist of Swedish survey data, which have been complemented by municipal-level data.

The findings indicate that the social and political context of municipalities can matter for individuals' attitude formation. Variation across municipalities in terms of the prevalence of social problems and risks seems to influence how individuals view the welfare state. Local municipal contexts characterized by many social problems and risks tend to be associated with more welfare state friendly attitudes among the local inhabitants, after taking individual-level determinants into account. Support for high social spending is greater in such milieus as is the tendency to view welfare beneficiaries with less suspicion regarding the potential abuse of welfare policies. Regarding the influence of local public service provision on attitudes, no evidence was found for feedback effects on individuals' attitudes toward public service privatization.

In their attitudes towards the welfare state, individuals are to some extent influenced by their local environment. There seems to be a 'built in' thermostat in the Swedish welfare state. Local circumstances characterized by social problems and risks tend to be associated with a local citizenry having more welfare state-friendly attitudes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Sociologiska institutionen, 2009
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508 ; 55
Welfare state, attitudes, local context, municipalities, multilevel analysis, Sweden
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Research subject
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-21046 (URN)978-91-7264-777-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-04-24, Hörsal E, Humanisthuset, Umeå, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-04-03 Created: 2009-04-02 Last updated: 2010-06-08Bibliographically approved

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