[Thesis]. Manchester, UK: The University of Manchester; 2015.
Across Europe, the welfare state is a focus of social and political contention. Participating
in the democratic process offers a means for the public to voice their preferences.
However, not everyone participates in politics. Research shows that there are significant
participatory inequalities as those with greater socioeconomic resources are more
likely to participate in politics. In light of these participatory inequalities, this
thesis examines the representativeness of the welfare state preferences of the politically
active. The main hypothesis posits that, if less advantaged socioeconomic groups are
less likely to participate in politics, the welfare state preferences of the politically
active are unlikely to be representative. The thesis brings together the comparative
study of participatory inequality and social differences in welfare state preferences
to examine data from the European Social Survey (ESS) 2008-09 for Germany, Spain,
Sweden and the UK. Latent Class Analysis examines how preferences about the welfare
state vary within Europe. By grouping individuals, the analysis shows that within
societies there are different views about what should be the responsibilities of government.
Using the latent classes, and considering a range of political actions, multivariate
regression models show how social inequality determines conflict over the welfare
state and transforms into political inequality. The association between preferences
and political activity is examined to establish the representativeness of participant
preferences. Finally, models combining welfare state preferences, political activity
and social position address how social inequality shapes the link between political
activity and welfare state preferences. Based on survey data for four European countries,
the thesis finds that the politically active are not always representative in their
preferences; however, the preference bias of participation varies in direction across
countries and forms of political participation. Participatory inequalities do lead
to the under-representation of support for the welfare state among the politically
active but not in all cases. Examining the social stratification of preferences and
participation, the thesis suggests that cross-national variations in the representativeness
of participants may result from how preferences and participation are socially stratified.
For instance, significant participatory inequalities can occur in contexts where there
is less contention over the welfare state. Conversely, contention over the welfare
state can coincide with egalitarian patterns of political activity. A concluding proposition
is that the factors inhibiting the political participation of the socio-economically
disadvantaged may also cultivate weaker levels of support for the welfare state.