The extent of the rich–poor divide in attitudes to welfare varies across societies. Existing studies focus on the progressivity of the welfare system and macroeconomic conditions to explain cross-society variation. We shed light on another factor that we believe is key to understanding the variation: the public’s knowledge of the welfare state. We suggest that the prevalent ignorance of how welfare state institutions work dilutes the rich–poor divide over social spending, especially in emerging welfare states. We empirically illustrate our point using original survey data from South Korea, a country where previous studies repeatedly found little or no effect of economic class on welfare state attitudes. We reveal a strong income-based cleavage over social spending in a subset of the Korean population with more accurate knowledge of the welfare system. Our findings carry important implications for understanding and projecting welfare state politics in a broader set of emerging welfare states.
- South Korea
- Welfare state politics
- income cleavage
- support for social spending
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations