WELTRUST: Welfare State Support and Political Trust: Integrating Economic, Cultural, and Policy Explanations
The WELTRUST project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council, directed by Professor Staffan Kumlin and located at University of Oslo, Department of Political Science. The project runs from September 2020 to December 2024.
Other project participants are Henning Finseraas (NTNU, Trondheim), Atle Haugsgjerd (Institute for Social Research, Oslo), and Lisanne de Blok, (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam).
The project will also employ a four-year postdoctoral fellow, a PhD Candidate, and a research assistant. Finally, it is expected that 1-2 further PhD students will work on related themes.
Overall, the project strengthens an emerging research environment at the University of Oslo focused on welfare state research and political behaviour. It also establishes links between this environment and the cross-disciplinary social science milieu at Institute for Social Research, Oslo.
This project analyzes two sets of political orientations that help reveal if the policies and politics of mature welfare states enjoy popular legitimacy. One is "welfare state support," i.e. attitudes to government redistribution to various groups in society (for example to "the old", to "the unemployed", or to various immigrant groups). The other orientation is "political trust"; this can mean satisfaction with democratic processes and trustworthiness of politicians and societal "elites". We investigate how welfare state support and political trust depend on citizens' evaluations of "welfare state performance." Three such evaluations are considered. One is "outcomes" (how good public services and social protection are perceived to be). The second dimension is "procedural fairness" in welfare delivery (if people feel they are treated with dignity and respect, if authorities are seen as impartial, and if people can exercise influence and express views to public employees). The third dimension is "fiscal sustainability," i.e. beliefs about whether the state can afford to maintain services and benefits given fiscal challenges. The project also investigates how these evaluations operate together with economic and cultural divisions in society. Do culturally and economically alienating experiences fail to produce anti-system political responses as long as welfare state performance is perceived as adequate? Finally, the project studies factors that may explain why people evaluate performance in different ways, especially how are these are affected by public sphere information emanating from different political parties and politicians. The project will collect a mix of experimental, longitudinal, and comparative data to answer these questions.
WELTRUST's "objectives" - as formulated in the project application - are listed below.
Further details about research agenda and organization are found in this document containing excerpts from the project application.
The primary objectives are to:
- study how welfare state support (including welfare nationalism) and political trust depend on multidimensional evaluations of welfare state performance.
- study how welfare state performance evaluations shape the political effects of various economic and cultural divisions in society.
- study the informational factors that in turn shape welfare evaluations.
This is achieved through secondary objectives. Specifically, we:
- collect experimental/longitudinal data on the informational underpinnings of welfare evaluations related to outcome quality, procedural fairness, and economic sustainability.
- combine newly collected and existing longitudinal data with comparative research designs to study how welfare state evaluations affect welfare state support and political trust.
- study how aspects of welfare state support and political trust affect each other.
- analyze how the causal processes mentioned in the previous objectives shape preference formation in the 2021 Norwegian national election.
WELTRUST is funded by the Norwegian Research Council.
WELTRUST's "international partners" are located at University of Konstanz (Prof. Dr. Marius Busemeyer) and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Prof. Cathrine de Vries).