Introduction: Voters and Parties in the Spanish Political Space
One of the most striking facts of recent Spanish political debate has been the relatively little partisan and ideological conflict over the size of the welfare state. To explain this puzzle, we rely on the idea that support for the welfare state and support for redistribution is not necessarily the same thing. First we argue that the conventional understanding of welfare state preferences hinges on a questionable set of assumptions over the effects of welfare state intervention. Second, we empirically show that, in Spain, preferences for pro-poor policies are not associated in a significant way with greater support for the welfare state. As expected from standard political-economy models, partisanship does differentiate those who favour welfare state expansion and pro-poor policies from those who favour welfare state retrenchment and non-redistributive programmes. Further comparative studies will shed light on how these patterns differ from those in other countries and how contextual factors such as economic crises affect them.