Gilens, Martin, Adam Thal (2018). Doing Well and Doing Good?: How Concern for Others Shapes Policy Preferences and Partisanship among Affluent Americans. Public Opinion Quarterly 82(2): Pages 209–230. DOI: 10.1093/poq/nfy020.
Previous research has identified nonmaterial considerations as especially important in shaping the political views of affluent Americans. While other scholars have focused on social issues like abortion or gay rights, or on collective goods like environmental protection, we explore the role of altruism in shaping the economic policy preferences and partisan identification of high-income Americans. We argue that altruistic concern for the well-being of the less well-off leads many affluent Americans to support antipoverty policies and the Democratic Party. Using measures based on actual giving behavior, we document that altruism matters little for low-income Americans’ preferences and partisanship, but has substantively large effects on the affluent, leading altruistic high-income Americans to be substantially more supportive of antipoverty policy and the Democratic Party than their less altruistically inclined high-income peers. These findings help explain why a government that responds primarily to the wishes of the well-off may still pursue policies designed to help the poor.
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