The distributive politics of the green transition: A conjoint experiment on EU climate change mitigation policy

In the fight against climate change, the European Union has developed a new growth strategy to transform Europe into the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. To support EU member states in their transition towards greener economies, climate change mitigation policies are being implemented at the EU-level. However, such policies can be designed in different ways, and gaining citizens’ support is crucial for the political feasibility of the European green transition. Drawing on data from an original conjoint experiment conducted in Germany (N = 5,796), this article investigates how policy design shapes public support for EU climate change mitigation. To this end, the study theoretically and empirically distinguishes four policy dimensions that address the distributive politics of the European green transition: sectoral scope, social spending, financing structure and cross-country distribution. The results confirm that all four policy dimensions significantly impact public support. Specifically, the study reveals that support is greatest for EU policy packages that target financial support at the renewable energy sector, include social investment policies, are financed by increasing taxes on the rich, and distribute resources across EU member states based on population size. Furthermore, citizens’ sensitivity to the policy design varies slightly by income position, left-right ideology and climate attitudes.

S Baute - Journal of European Public Policy - 2024

Mass Euroscepticism revisited: The role of distributive justice

This article advances research into mass Euroscepticism by investigating the role of distributive justice. Drawing on cross-national survey data from 23 countries, the study shows that perceived injustice of individual opportunities (i.e. educational and job opportunities) and outcomes (i.e. earnings) nourish Eurosceptic sentiments, independent of objective inequalities. However, the public response to distributive injustice varies across European Union (EU) member states, as high domestic corruption levels dampen the apparent link to EU accountability. Perceptions of injustice concerning earnings provide a potential breeding ground for Euroscepticism in member states with low levels of corruption, while EU scapegoating regarding earnings injustice does not manifest itself in member states with the highest levels of corruption. These results are supportive of a justice-based approach in understanding varieties of Euroscepticism across Europe.

S Baute - European Union Politics, 2023

Multi-level blame attribution and public support for EU welfare policies

Since the Eurozone crisis, intense political debate has resurfaced about deservingness judgements in European solidarity. To contribute to this debate, this article proposes a refined concept of ‘multi-level blame attribution’. It postulates that public support for EU-level welfare policies crucially depends on how citizens attribute responsibility for economic outcomes across different levels of agency. Results from an original public opinion survey conducted in 10 European Union member states demonstrate that attributing blame to individuals decreases citizens’ willingness to show solidarity with needy Europeans, whereas attributing blame to the EU increases support. The role of attributing blame to national governments is dependent on the country context; beliefs that worse economic outcomes are caused by national governments’ policy decisions tend to dampen support for EU targeted welfare policies only in the Nordic welfare states. The article concludes by discussing the implications of multi-level blame attribution for the formation of public attitudes towards European solidarity.

S Baute, A Pellegata - West European Politics, 2022

European Solidarity and the Politics of Blame and Reciprocity

European solidarity can be built or broken on popular ideas of blame and reciprocity. But political leaders are more than passive conduits for public opinion. Drawing on social science research, Sharon Baute, Max Heermann, and Dirk Leuffen argue that the narratives we use to explain Europe’s many crises are key to the emergence of shared European solutions.

D Leuffen, M Heermann, S Baute - Green European Journal, 2022

Explaining public support for demanding activation of the unemployed: The role of subjective risk perceptions and stereotypes about the unemployed

In recent decades, European welfare states have adopted demanding active labour market policies (ALMPs), aimed at increasing labour market participation through imposing stricter work-related obligations and benefit cuts in case of job offer rejection. This article investigates whether support for such demanding ALMPs is driven by risk perceptions of future unemployment and negative stereotypes about unemployed persons. Insights into the role of risk perceptions and stereotypes offer opportunities to gain a better understanding of the impact of structural variables. Drawing on data from the European Social Survey 2016 in 21 European countries, the analysis reveals that higher subjective risk of unemployment decreases support for these ALMPs substantially, whereas negative perceptions of the unemployed increase support. However, these factors play at the individual level only and do not explain country-level differences in support of demanding ALMPs. The notable cross-national variation in support of activation policies is found to be unrelated to economic factors and to the strictness of activation requirements for unemployment benefits.

F Rossetti, B Meuleman, S Baute - Journal of European Social Policy, 2022

Positional Deprivation and Support for Redistribution and Social Insurance in Europe

We argue that support for redistribution increases when one experiences “positional deprivation,” situations when one’s own income increases slower or decreases faster compared to that of others. This specific combination of economic suffering over-time and relative to others has effects beyond well-studied measures of suffering that are static and/or absolute in nature, such as income level. We empirically explore this hypothesis by using “objective-material” measures of positional deprivation derived from the Luxembourg Income Studies and the European Social Survey, and by using “subjective” measures derived from an original survey in 13 European countries. We find that those whose income growth is outpaced by the average and/or richest members of their country are more likely to support redistribution. We also find that the objective and subjective measures of positional deprivation are significantly correlated, and that positional deprivation’s fostering of support for redistribution holds above-and-beyond static and/or absolute measures of economic experience.

B Burgoon, S Baute, S van Noort - Comparative Political Studies, 2022

Citizens' expectations about social protection in multilevel governance: The interplay between national and supranational institutions

Two contrasting perspectives can be identified in the current literature on the relationship between European integration and the welfare state. On the one hand, the race to the bottom thesis presumes that welfare spending will be reduced to the lowest common denominator. On the other hand, the upward convergence thesis suggests that European integration supports and strengthens the capacities of national welfare states. This suggests that the consequences of European integration for national social protection systems are ambiguous. The current study contributes to this debate, by investigating the relationship between European integration and the welfare state from the perspective of public opinion. Do European citizens envision a race to the bottom or an upward convergence in social protection, and why so? Analysing data from the European Social Survey in 18 EU countries, the article reveals that the material benefits brought by national and supranational institutions, jointly shape citizens' expectations about the EU–welfare nexus, although in opposite directions. Generous national welfare provision fuels expectations that European integration fosters a race to the bottom for social protection levels, while higher receipts from EU Structural Fund programs and individual trust in EU institutions raise expectations of the EU as a catalyst of upward convergence in social standards. The implications of these findings for social policymaking in multilevel governance regimes are discussed.

S Baute - Social Policy & Administration, 2022

Conditional generosity and deservingness in public support for European unemployment risk sharing

Previous research into public support for welfare solidarity often refers to the importance of ‘reciprocity’, which means that generous social benefits are supported if they are matched by credible commitments to contribute by those who can. The current article adds to this body of literature by providing novel empirical evidence on the roles of generosity and conditionality in support for European unemployment insurance programmes. Drawing on a conjoint survey experiment in 13European countries, we show that Europeans may be motivated by an ethos of reciprocity, since policy proposals that are both generous and conditional are the most popular among the general population. However, conditional generosity seems to have much more traction among those who consider the unemployed as undeserving, suggesting that EU-level policies may succeed in overcoming the diffidence of welfare sceptics if reciprocity is ensured in the architecture of the policy design.

S Baute, F Nicoli, F Vandenbroucke - Journal of Common Market Studies, 2021

Social resentment, blame attribution and Euroscepticism: The role of status insecurity, relative deprivation and powerlessness

This article investigates the relationship between social resentment and Euroscepticism. It argues that that populist parties mobilize the resentment of the losers of modernization by addressing new cultural and political cleavages as well as the issue of European integration. Using survey data from the Belgian National Election Study 2014, the study covers two research objectives. First, we investigate the role of feelings of resentment in citizens’ support for the EU. We theoretically distinguish three constitutive components of resentment – status insecurity, relative deprivation and powerlessness – and empirically test to what extent these feelings drive negative attitudes towards the EU. Second, we uncover how Euroscepticism is embedded in a populist ‘politics of resentment’, paving the way for further inquiry into how the effect of resentment on Euroscepticism is mediated by different types of blame attribution. Our results reveal that feelings of social resentment translate into stronger Euroscepticism. However, the effect on Euroscepticism is primarily mediated by cultural (anti-immigrant) and political (anti-establishment) blame attributions. In this regard, the study presents a more detailed understanding of the roots and processes that drive mass Euroscepticism.

K Abts, S Baute - Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research

EU health solidarity in times of crisis: Explaining public preferences towards EU risk pooling for medicines

The COVID-19 outbreak in Europe has brought attention to EU health policy as a focal point for solidarity, particularly as it concerns access to medicines. Against the backdrop of policy proposals for EU joint procurement of medicines, this article expands our understanding of public opinion towards this particular aspect of European integration. Drawing on data from a conjoint experiment in five EU countries, the study investigates the extent to which citizens’ preferences concerning alternative policy designs for EU joint procurement of medicines are either structured along a pro-EU versus anti-EU or ideological divide, or are crisis driven by the perceived COVID-19 threat. The analysis reveals that individual preferences over the design of EU risk pooling for medicines are most strongly explained by Euroscepticism, while egalitarian ideology plays only a modest role. How citizens’ perceived threat of COVID-19 affects their preferences for this form of EU risk pooling is dependent on the national context.

S Baute, A de Ruijter - Journal of European Public Policy, 2021

Public attitudes towards a European minimum income benefit: How(perceived) welfare state performance and expectations shape popular support

The economic crisis and the unequal degree to which it has affected European Union (EU) member states have fuelled the debate on whether the EU should take responsibility for the living standards of European citizens. The current article contributes to this debate by investigating for the first time public support for an EU-wide minimum income benefit scheme. Through an analysis of data from the European Social Survey 2016, our results reveal that diverging national experiences and expectations are crucial in understanding why Europeans are widely divided on the implementation of such a benefit scheme. The analysis shows that (1) welfare state generosity and perceived welfare state performance dampen support, (2) those expecting that ‘more Europe’ will increase social protection levels are much more supportive, (3) the stronger support for a European minimum income benefit in less generous welfare states is explained by more optimistic expectations about the EU’s domestic impact and (4) lower socioeconomic status groups are more supportive of this policy proposal. These findings can be interpreted in terms of sociotropic and egocentric self-interests, and illustrate how (perceived) performance of the national welfare state and expectations about the EU’s impact on social protection levels shape support for supranational social policymaking.

S Baute, B Meuleman - Journal of European Social Policy, 2020

Public support for European solidarity: Between Euroscepticism and EU agenda preferences?

This article investigates public support for two types of EU-wide solidarity that currently exist, namely member state solidarity (such as transfers to less developed and crisis-hit countries) and transnational solidarity (such as granting cross-border social rights to EU citizens). Drawing on data from the 2014 Belgian National Election Study, we find that opposition towards European integration – in particular regarding EU enlargement – reduces citizens' willingness to support European solidarity to a large extent. However, this article reveals that public support for European solidarity cannot simply be reduced to a pro-versus anti-integration, nor to a domestic left–right conflict. Citizens' substantive positions towards the EU's social and economic agenda are a crucial element in understanding contestation over European integration issues.

S Baute, K Abts, B Meuleman - Journal of Common Market Studies, 2019

Measuring attitudes towards Social Europe: A multidimensional approach

Although the notion of ‘Social Europe’ can refer to different principles and policy options, most research narrows down attitudes towards Social Europe to a unidimensional construct. In this study, we instead propose a multi-dimensional approach, and contribute to the literature in three ways. First, we elaborate the notion of ‘Social Europe’ conceptually, and distinguish between the decision-making level for social policy, European social citizenship, harmonization, member-state solidarity and interpersonal solidarity. Second, analysing the 2014 Belgian National Election Study by means of confirmatory factor analysis we evidence that citizens indeed have distinct attitudes towards the policy principles and instruments of Social Europe. Although these attitudinal dimensions are interrelated, they cannot be reduced to a single Social Europe factor, meaning that citizens differentiate in their attitudes between various aspects of Social Europe. In addition, our research indicates that member-state solidarity is the primary aspect of Social Europe in public opinion, whereas the feature that has received most scholarly attention in empirical research to date—the preferred decision-making level for social policy—cannot be considered as a key component of attitudes towards Social Europe. Third, we investigate whether citizens with different educational levels conceptualize Social Europe similarly using multigroup confirmatory factor analysis. Results indicate that the attitudinal factor structure of Social Europe is largely equivalent among lower and higher-educated citizens.

S Baute, B Meuleman, K Abts, M Swyngedouw - Social Indicators Research, 2018

European integration as a threat to social security: Another source of Euroscepticism?

This study investigates whether citizens' concerns about the EU's impact on social security are a distinct source of Euroscepticism. By analysing data from the European Values Study 2008, we show that citizens differentiate between domain-specific fears about European integration (i.e. about social security, national sovereignty, culture, payments and jobs), meaning that they cannot be reduced completely to a general fear about European integration. Furthermore, socioeconomic determinants and ideological position are more important in explaining citizens' fear about the EU's impact on social security than in explaining their generalised fear of European integration. In countries with higher social spending, citizens are more fearful of European integration in general, however, social spending does not affect fears about social security more strongly than it affects other EU-related fears.

S Baute, B Meuleman, K Abts, M Swyngedouw, European Union Politics, 2018

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