Citizens’ welfare opinions are highly susceptible to cues about welfare recipients’ deservingness. Extant research argues that this deservingness heuristic is a universal feature of human help-giving psychology, implying that all citizens, regardless of their values, are evenly affected by deservingness cues. This article suggests that the deservingness heuristic is much more conditional than previously appreciated. Specifically, its influence on welfare opinions is conditioned by humanitarianism: the belief that others in need should be helped. The more people adhere to this value, the more they need information that signals whether others are genuinely needy. Citizens should thus rely more on the deservingness heuristic the stronger their humanitarian values are. I find support for this argument in three survey experiments (two nationally representative), where citizens are exposed to cues that welfare recipients are either lazy (undeserving) or unlucky (deserving). These findings have important implications for our understanding of citizens’ welfare opinions.
- individual differences
- welfare attitudes