Elias Naumann
Tax Constraints, Social Policy Preferences, and Support for Redistribution

Societies, 2018: 8, issue 3,
ISSN: 2075-4698 (online)

The aim of this paper is to explore whether support for the welfare state is lower if people are made aware of its costs. Using data from a series of survey experiments in the German Internet Panel, we analyse individual spending preferences for different areas of the welfare state and support for redistribution. Tax constraints lead to lower support for unemployment benefits and for redistribution. Tax constraints do not affect support for more spending on pensions, healthcare, and long-term care. We consider whether the effect of tax constraints varies with pre-existing political attitudes or with individual material circumstances. We find little evidence that a political ideology makes respondents more responsive to tax constraints. However, we find some support that low income respondents are less responsive to the tax constraint and maintain their high support despite its costs. Attitudes towards the welfare state are not independent of attitudes towards taxation, and we conclude that our understanding of public attitudes might considerably benefit from combining these different strands of the literature.