Elias Naumann
Increasing conflict in times of retrenchment? Attitudes towards healthcare provision in Europe between 1996 and 2002

International Journal of Social Welfare, 2014: 23, Heft 3, S. 276-286
ISSN: 1369-6866 (print); 1468-2397 (online)

Public opinion is considered a major obstacle to changing the status quo of welfare state policies. Yet some far-reaching reforms and gradual changes of European welfare states prompt the reverse question: Have increased reform pressures and restructuring efforts led to changes in individual attitudes? In line with previous research, I found that the strong support for a public provision of healthcare remains unchanged. But what about the structure of attitudes? Testing core assumptions of the new politics theory and power resources theory, I looked at conflict lines within society and how they change in times of retrenchment. Analysing individual attitudes in 14 European countries between 1996 and 2002, I moved beyond static comparisons across countries to provide a dynamic account of trends over time. Observing stability, not change, I found no evidence that the relevance of old cleavages is in decline. Both old and new cleavages shape individual attitudes.