Social Indicators Research

, Volume 113, Issue 1, pp 235-255

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The Multidimensionality of Welfare State Attitudes: A European Cross-National Study

  • Femke RoosmaAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Tilburg University Email author 
  • , John GelissenAffiliated withDepartment Methodology and Statistics, Tilburg University
  • , Wim van OorschotAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Tilburg University


When evaluating the various aspects of the welfare state, people assess some aspects more positively than others. Following a multidimensional approach, this study systematically argues for a framework composed of seven dimensions of the welfare state, which are subject to the opinions of the public. Using confirmatory factor analyses, this conceptual framework of multidimensional welfare attitudes was tested on cross-national data from 22 countries participating in the 2008 European Social Survey. According to our empirical analysis, attitudes towards the welfare state are multidimensional; in general, people are very positive about the welfare state’s goals and range, while simultaneously being critical of its efficiency, effectiveness and policy outcomes. We found that these dimensions relate to each other differently in different countries. Eastern/Southern Europeans combine a positive attitude towards the goals and role of government with a more critical attitude towards the welfare state’s efficiency and policy outcomes. In contrast, Western/Northern Europeans’ attitudes towards the various welfare state dimensions are based partly on a fundamentally positive or negative stance towards the welfare state.


Welfare state Welfare attitudes Welfare legitimacy Public opinion Cross-national research European social survey