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Responsibility for impairment shapes the perceived deservingness of welfare claimants with disabilities

Thorp, Joshua and Larner, Jac ORCID: 2024. Responsibility for impairment shapes the perceived deservingness of welfare claimants with disabilities. Political Psychology 10.1111/pops.12978

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When do people support government assistance for people with disabilities? Disability welfare programs account for large shares of national welfare budgets, but little is known about public attitudes toward disabled welfare claimants. Drawing on psychological research in stereotype content, we argue that attitudes toward welfare for people with disabilities are likely to be more conditional than previously acknowledged. In two nationally representative, preregistered survey experiments in Wales (N = 3393) and Scotland (1707), we ask respondents to evaluate the deservingness of a fictitious disabled claimant to government assistance. We manipulate the claimant's outgroup status and the manner in which they acquired their impairment. We find that disabled claimants perceived as even somewhat responsible for their impairments are considered substantially less deserving of government assistance than those perceived not responsible, even when their needs for assistance are identical. Contrary to expectations, we find relatively modest and inconsistent outgroup penalties in perceived deservingness. Finally, we find large heterogeneous treatment effects among respondents holding to more authoritarian social values. These results challenge conventional wisdom regarding the universality of support for disability welfare and help explain why voters may not be inclined to punish politicians who propose cuts to programs for even stereotypically high-deserving groups.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: In Press
Schools: Cardiff Law & Politics
Wales Governance Centre (WGCES)
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 1467-9221
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 March 2024
Date of Acceptance: 8 February 2024
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2024 09:47

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