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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

Elites and society - elite unity and elite/mass correspondence or widended gaps?

Alternative title: Elitene og det norske samfunnet. Enhet mellom elitene og samsvar mellom elitene og borgerne eller økende forskjeller?

Awarded: NOK 7.8 mill.

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Project Period:

2014 - 2017


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The Leadership Study 2015 shows that there is a widespread elite support for the Norwegian model. The support has not decreased since the Leadership Study 2000. The support is particularly pronounced as to the system of industrial relations. But also an active and redistributing welfare state receives considerable, albeit somewhat more moderate backing by the elites. Among the national elite groups the private business elite stand forth as more reserved towards the active Norwegian model state. Among the politicians the representatives of the Conservative party and the Progress Party, as expected, declare that they prefer reduced taxes before an expansion of welfare benefits, more privatization and a halt in the redistribution of income. Moreover, our analyses demonstrate that Norwegian elites have a quite high level of trust in parliament, cabinet and civil service. In contrast to the situation in many other Western countries, also the citizens have a fairly high level of trust in these institutions. Interestingly, the level of political trust was higher in 2015 than in 2000, both among the elites and citizens in general. In other words, both elites and citizens rally around the Norwegian political system. The majority of elites are in line with the citizens in a moderate support for an active welfare state and policies for income redistribution. Elites and citizens diverge, however, in the view on immigration policies. The population is on average more in favour of reducing the number of immigrants than the elites. Next, Norwegian elites do not think that the population has too little knowledge about politics to make sensible choices in a parliamentary election. However, a majority of the elites believe that there is too much political indifference among the citizens, and small majority considers that most people are too easily influenced by strong politicians. The Norwegian elites are also critical towards the politicians. A large majority (77 per cent) think politicians are too keen to follow fluctuations in citizens? attitudes. This critical stance does not, however, lead them to support that decisions are being left to successful businessmen or professional experts.

A decade ago the Norwegian Leadership Study 2000, in combination with the Citizenship study from the same year, demonstrated that elites in Norway supported democracy and democratic institutions, exhibited shared trust in central institutions, and rallied behind significant compromises. Available data at the time also testified a strong popular adherence to the welfare state based upon public services. In light of significant changes that have taken place during the latest decade, i.e. the financial crisi s, increased globalization, the EU crisis, climate changes, growing migration, etc. we ask whether elite unity still is prevalent and whether a correspondence between elite and mass attitudes still is present. We focus upon three sets of questions: (1) El ite integration; studying to what extent the various sector elites are forming a more or less unified group. (2) Social distance between elites and population, in attitudes and reciprocal perceptions. (3) Elite attitudes toeards gender equality and divers ity. We will conduct both an elite survey and a citizen survey during 2015. The design allows examining within elite relations as well as studying how elites and citizens relate to each other.

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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam