When political values and perceptions of deservingness collide: Evaluating public support for homelessness investments in Canada [2018]

Citizen attitudes toward welfare state investments are often explained by their ideological values and their perceptions of deservingness of welfare recipients, yet recent experimental research has led to the theorization that clear deservingness cues can overwhelm otherwise strong ideological beliefs. We tested these claims with respect to homelessness in Canada using a vignette survey experiment and found evidence that citizens with very different political beliefs can support similar government investments, indeed from a shared sense of deservingness as suggested by recent experimental studies, but that support is anchored by rather different reasons.

Key Practitioner Message:

• Citizen support for homelessness investments is jointly mediated by ideology and a sense of the “deservingness” of the beneficiary.

• Emphasizing the broader cost savings to taxpayers from “Housing First” does not make conservative‐leaning citizens more supportive of investments.

• Emphasizing the personal attributes of persons experiencing homelessness rather than abstract statistics may unite progressives and conservatives on “deservingness”.

Carey Doberstein, Alison Smith

International Journal of Social Welfare, 30 October 2018