Taking Social Policy Personally: How Does Neuroticism Affect Welfare State Attitudes?

53 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2013 Last revised: 30 Nov 2019

See all articles by Markus S. Tepe

Markus S. Tepe

University of Oldenburg

Pieter Vanhuysse

University of Southern Denmark

Date Written: September 21, 2018


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 all need contexts. Neurotic people are thus less happy with welfare state programs across the board, yet they also appear to need these programs more. This trait may be an important deeper layer driving other social attitudes

Keywords: political psychology, neuroticism, Big Five, German Socio-Economic Panel

Suggested Citation

Tepe, Markus S. and Vanhuysse, Pieter, Taking Social Policy Personally: How Does Neuroticism Affect Welfare State Attitudes? (September 21, 2018). Social Policy and Administration, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2282622 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2282622

Markus S. Tepe

University of Oldenburg ( email )

Ammerländer Heerstraße 114-118
Oldenburg, D-26111

HOME PAGE: http://www.tepems.de

Pieter Vanhuysse (Contact Author)

University of Southern Denmark ( email )

Campusvej 55
DK 5230 Odense

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