Taking Social Policy Personally: Personality Traits and Welfare Attitudes Across Contexts of Social Need and Regime Socialization
49 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2013
Date Written: June 20, 2013
Previous political research on personality has largely focused on voting and partisan attitudes. This article explores the direct and the conditional relationship between the Big Five personality traits and welfare state attitudes in the context of five different areas or needs contexts for welfare provision. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel 2002, we obtain robust evidence that neuroticism is associated with stronger support for the state’s financial responsibility when unemployed, when sick, and for the family. The substantive effect of personality traits in predicting welfare attitudes is often as large as that of education, employment status, or partisan ideology. Moreover, unlike traits such as conscientiousness, openness and extraversion, the relationship between neuroticism and welfare attitudes is not conditioned by communist regime socialization. We conclude that personality in general and neuroticism in particular are unjustly neglected factors shaping individuals’ preferences towards welfare provision, which deserve closer attention in future research.
Keywords: Big Five, self-interest, socialization, communist legacy, German Socio-Economic Panel
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