Yardsticks of inequality: Preferences for redistribution in advanced democracies

This article explores how preferences for redistribution among voters are affected by the structure of inequality. There are strong theoretical reasons to believe that some voter segments matter more than others, not least the so-called median-income voter, but surprisingly little attention has been paid to directly analysing distinct income groups’ redistributive preferences. In addition, while much of the previous literature has focused on broad levels of inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, it is likely that individuals respond to different types of inequality in different ways. To rectify this gap, we use data from the European Social Survey and Eurostat to examine the interactive effect of income deciles and various measures of inequality. Results suggest that inequality especially affects the middle-income groups – that is, the assumed median-income voters. Moreover, not all inequality matters equally: it is inequality vis-à-vis those around the 80th percentile that shapes redistributive preferences.