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Increasing conflict in times of retrenchment? Attitudes towards healthcare provision in Europe between 1996 and 2002



Public opinion is considered a major obstacle to changing the status quo of welfare state policies. Yet some far-reaching reforms and gradual changes of European welfare states prompt the reverse question: Have increased reform pressures and restructuring efforts led to changes in individual attitudes? In line with previous research, I found that the strong support for a public provision of healthcare remains unchanged. But what about the structure of attitudes? Testing core assumptions of the new politics theory and power resources theory, I looked at conflict lines within society and how they change in times of retrenchment. Analysing individual attitudes in 14 European countries between 1996 and 2002, I moved beyond static comparisons across countries to provide a dynamic account of trends over time. Observing stability, not change, I found no evidence that the relevance of old cleavages is in decline. Both old and new cleavages shape individual attitudes.