In the face of accelerating global warming and attendant natural disasters, it is clear that governments all over the world eventually have to take measures to mitigate the most adverse consequences of climate change. However, the costs of these measures are likely to force governments to reconsider some of their tax and spending priorities, of which social spending is the largest expenditure item in developed welfare states. Unless carried out in a way that is considered as fair by most citizens, such trade-off is likely to add a new, ecological dimension to the existing social cleavages in people’s preferences for public provision. Whether or not the possible tensions between the two sets of policies have already resulted in the emergence of a new, eco-social divide in Europe is an open question. In this paper, we hypothesise that there are four distinct attitude groups in relation to welfare and climate change policies, and that the probability of belonging to any of these groups is influenced by individuals’ socioeconomic and ideological characteristics, as well as the country context in which they live. We test our hypotheses using data from the eighth round of the European Social Survey conducted in 2016/17 in multinomial regression models. Results suggest that across Europe people are considerably divided in their support of public welfare and climate policies, but that support for both dimensions is highest in the Nordic countries. At the micro level, we find political ideology and trust in public institutions to be the most important drivers of a newly emerging eco-social divide.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited