What do the British public think of inequality in health, wealth, and power?
Abstract: Given the importance of public opinion for policy formation and the salience of inequality as a political issue, little attention has been given to the public's views about the desirability of equality, not only in health but also in economics and politics. We report the results of an on-line survey of attitudes to equality carried out in late 2016 in Great Britain (N=1667, response rate 35-50%) across these different domains. The survey allowed for testing whether public opinion is sensitive to different conceptions of equality across two other variables: absolute versus relative (everyone should have the same versus inequality should be reduced) and bivariate versus univariate (inequality in one domain, e.g. health, is judged in relation to inequality in another (e.g. income) versus inequality in a domain is judged independently of other domains). It also allowed us to see, across those conceptions, the extent to which support for equality in one domain overlaps with support for equality in another domain. We find that for health, economic and political equality a relative conception of equality generally attracts more support than an absolute conception, and that for health and political equality a bivariate conception attracts more support than a univariate conception. We also find that conceptions of equality affect how much overlap exists between support for equality across different domains, with a bivariate and relative conception resulting in much more overlap than a univariate and absolute conception. We also find evidence of support for Michael Walzer's 'complex equality' theory in which we tolerate inequality in one domain as long as it does not determine inequality in another. In Britain, respondents object not so much to economic inequality itself as to its determining both political inequality and health inequality.
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