Numbers and attitudes towards welfare state generosity

2019-10-15T08:25:19Z (GMT) by Carsten Jensen Anthony Kevins
Between pro-retrenchment politicians and segments of the media, exaggerated claims about the generous benefits enjoyed by those on welfare are relatively common. But to what extent, and under what conditions, can they actually shape attitudes towards welfare? This study explores these questions via a survey experiment conducted in the UK, examining: (1) the extent to which the value of the claimed figure matters; (2) if the presence of anchoring information about minimum wage income has an impact; and (3) whether these effects differ based on egalitarianism and political knowledge. Results suggest that increasing the size of the claimed figure decreases support in a broadly linear fashion, with anchoring information important only when (asserted) benefit levels are modestly above the minimum wage income. Egalitarianism, in turn, primarily matters when especially low figures are placed alongside information about minimum wage, while low-knowledge respondents were more susceptible to anchoring effects than high-knowledge ones.