This studentship aims to advance the understanding of changing social attitudes and political values in Britain based on secondary analysis of existing datasets derived from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey. It will be supervised jointly by Dr Chris Deeming and Prof Sir John Curtice at the University of Strathclyde and Paul Bradshaw at ScotCen Social Research.
Britain appears more divided than ever, with a growing sense of social, political and geographical polarisation. The public has become more sceptical and hostile towards political institutions that promote commonly agreed goals; the EU and the British welfare state are cases in point. How can we explain such trends, are they linked, and are they here to stay, do they form part of a more general realignment in public opinion and political values? This project will explore these questions and issues using 36-waves of British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey data spanning nearly four decades, examining changing attitudes towards the EU and welfare state; in particular, we want to know whether or to what extent Euroscepticism and welfare-scepticism views are related in the national population, and what the survey may tell us more generally about the changing nature of political ‘values’ in the British population.
The specific research questions the study aims to answer are:
- to what extent are citizens who are Eurosceptic also welfare-sceptic? We want to examine how the relationship between Euroscepticism and welfare-scepticism has emerged and changes over time and amongst which groups and in which areas, regions, countries.
- does Euroscepticism and welfare-scepticism and the relationship between the two develop only amongst those groups already more inclined to report such attitudes or does it emerge amongst some groups and in some areas where it didn’t previously exist, and if so which groups and what areas?
- to what extent can the Eurosceptic and welfare-sceptic shifts in public opinion be explained by changes in voting preferences and support for political parties?
- to what extent can the rise of Euroscepticism and welfare-scepticism be explained by the changing core values of the electorate? Here we rely on BSA scales: left-right, libertarian-authoritarian and welfarism.
The student will benefit from a tailored training programme and research work placement at ScotCen where they will have have access to NatCen’s in-house researcher training programme and will have the opportunity to be involved in running survey data analysis, with further access to research interviewer training and research report writing opportunities. This really is a fantastic placement opportunity for anyone wishing to develop a research career in this field. Findings from the research will be disseminated through papers at academic workshops and conferences in preparation for publication.