Sophie’s Choice: Social attitudes to welfare state retrenchment in bailed-out Portugal

14 Jun 2019

ABSTRACT: This article examines social attitudes towards social rights in Portugal. It utilizes original survey data from 2013 to study the distribution of welfare attitudes in a context of economic austerity and welfare retrenchment. The main argument is that there are at least two sources of preference formation regarding public social provision: one is universalistic (or needs-based), and the other is contributory. These two logics frame choices concerning the future of the welfare state in Portugal. We explore the determinants of this choice through three hypotheses: dualization between insiders and outsiders (H1), the type of welfare regime (H2) and social rights consciousness (H3). Our findings suggest that choice between universalistic and contributory models is not impervious to macro-institutional factors and labour market performance. The paper’s main contribution, however, is to empirically demonstrate that this choice is significantly shaped by pre-existing understandings of social rights in Portugal, namely its politically contested character.