English title: Education and the Zeitgeist: government positions and public opinion on income distribution

Author(s): Tor Georg Jakobsen -

Language: English

Type: Journal article

Year: 2011


Despite a sizable literature on the elite mass linkage, few of these studies are cross-national. In this paper, I apply multilevel ordered logit models to investigate public opinion toward redistribution in 23 European countries. I test whether these views depend on: (1) the policies of the government (i.e. the bandwagon effect) and (2) personal interest, as indicated by income and education. Briefly, the bandwagon effect appears when people's perception of strong support for one line of thinking leads to their adopting this reasoning. The self-interest argument states that those who would benefit from a redistributive policy are likely to support it. In addition, I argue that higher education has a dual nature, consisting of an interest in providing one's own self-interest as well as a critical thinking component. Elite opinion is quantified from the party manifestos of incumbent parties and tested against data from the European Social Survey. I find no significant direct effect of political elite views on public opinion. On the other hand, there is strong support for the self-interest argument, and yet the rightist tendency for higher educated persons is significantly smaller if their government is economically conservative. This finding is attributed to the critical thinking argument as well as to the reasoning that higher education makes people better able to filter political information, thus countering the bandwagon effect.

Volume: 3

Issue: 1

From page no: 103

To page no: 124

Refereed: Yes

DOI: 10.1017/S1755773910000287

Journal: European Political Science Review

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