Three Worlds of Public Opinion? Values, Variation, and the Effect on Social Policy
AbstractThe variation among advanced capitalist democracies in terms of welfare programs has been well documented. Given the theoretical relationship between public opinion and public policy in democratic states, we should expect to see similar differences among such countries in terms of their mass political preferences. Rooted in Esping-Andersen’s familiar and in.uential ‘Three Worlds’ typology, this paper provides an analysis of this relationship for 18 advanced capitalist democracies using International Social Survey Program, World Values Survey, and Eurobarometer data. Results suggest (1) a noticeable ideological rift between the more libertarian English-speaking countries and the more socially-oriented states of Scandinavia, continental Europe, and Japan; (2) a strong fit between differences in public opinion and variation in policy orientation when ideological responses are considered separately from policy-oriented results, consistent with both Free and Cantril (1968) and Coughlin (1980); (3) the unexpected emergence of Sweden and Great Britain as anomalous cases which exhibit patterns of policy preferences at odds with their statuses as bulwarks of the Social Democratic and Liberal welfare types, respectively; and (4) a relationship between public opinion and social policy roughly similar to that of previously-established causal relationships, justifying the further examination of mass political preferences as a source of the variation in policy among our sample countries.