Social Indicators Research

, Volume 137, Issue 1, pp 353–378 | Cite as

Measuring Attitudes Towards Social Europe: A Multidimensional Approach

  • Sharon BauteEmail author
  • Bart Meuleman
  • Koen Abts
  • Marc Swyngedouw


Although the notion of ‘Social Europe’ can refer to different principles and policy options, most research narrows down attitudes towards Social Europe to a unidimensional construct. In this study, we instead propose a multi-dimensional approach, and contribute to the literature in three ways. First, we elaborate the notion of ‘Social Europe’ conceptually, and distinguish between the decision-making level for social policy, European social citizenship, harmonization, member-state solidarity and interpersonal solidarity. Second, analysing the 2014 Belgian National Election Study by means of confirmatory factor analysis we evidence that citizens indeed have distinct attitudes towards the policy principles and instruments of Social Europe. Although these attitudinal dimensions are interrelated, they cannot be reduced to a single Social Europe factor, meaning that citizens differentiate in their attitudes between various aspects of Social Europe. In addition, our research indicates that member-state solidarity is the primary aspect of Social Europe in public opinion, whereas the feature that has received most scholarly attention in empirical research to date—the preferred decision-making level for social policy—cannot be considered as a key component of attitudes towards Social Europe. Third, we investigate whether citizens with different educational levels conceptualize Social Europe similarly using multigroup confirmatory factor analysis. Results indicate that the attitudinal factor structure of Social Europe is largely equivalent among lower and higher-educated citizens.


Social Europe European integration Social dimension Public opinion Attitudes 



This study was made possible by grants from KU Leuven research council (OT/13/30), the Belgian National Lottery and the National Science Foundation FWO-Vlaanderen (Grant Number G068816 N).


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Sociological Research (CeSO), Institute for Social and Political Opinion ResearchUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral SciencesTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

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