Sunday, March 1, 2015

SPSP 2015: Status Shapes Preferences for Redistribution

A lot of people think about political ideology as a powerful causal force that influences the structure of our society and our respective positions within it. In the politics and inequality symposium Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and her colleagues examined political ideology from a different perspective: Instead of shaping the structure of society, does political ideology arise from our position within that structure? That is, do we create our political beliefs strategically in order to justify our own lives and the lives of those around us?

Across several studies, Brown-Iannuzzi presented research investigating this link between social status and ideology: In the studies, social status is measured in terms of subjective perceptions of position in the socioeconomic hierarchy or manipulated in an economic game in which an individual receives more or less of a monetary reward than other game players. Whatever the method, higher standing was related to more conservative ideology and greater aversion to redistribution—ideological beliefs that support the status quo. In contrast, those at the bottom of the measured/manipulated status hierarchy tended to support redistribution and report being more politically liberal—a set of beliefs that support social change and hierarchy ascendance for those at the bottom.

Together, the findings suggest that people choose their political beliefs potentially to justify their own lives and positions. This is an exciting area of future research, and you can read more about the findings here!

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