English title: Political sophistication affects how citizens’ social policy preferences respond to the economy

Author(s): Ann-Kristin Kölln -

Language: English

Type: Journal article

Year: 2018


Theoretical and empirical accounts of public opinion show that people’s social policy preferences are affected by the state of economy. According to the countercyclical view, economic downturn increases citizens’ demands for social policy whereas the procyclical view states that citizens demand less social policy during economically tough times. This article argues that individuals’ differences in political sophistication and, specifically, the commonly associated social-psychological characteristics are part of the micro-foundations for those different responses. People acquire and process information differently, which influences their political preferences. Public opinion and macroeconomic data from Europe during the economic crisis support the argument. The results show that people with lower levels of political sophistication tend to be procyclical, whereas this relationship weakens and moves towards countercyclical opinion structures with increasing levels of sophistication. These findings help to explain social policy preferences in response to the economy, and they offer insights into the origins of social policy preferences.

Volume: 41

Issue: 1

From page no: 196

To page no: 217

Refereed: Yes

DOI: 10.1080/01402382.2017.1332314

Journal: West European Politics

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