Taking Social Policy Personally: How Does Neuroticism Affect Welfare State Attitudes?
53 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2013 Last revised: 30 Nov 2019
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
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