New Study Shows Government Accommodates Rich and Poor Alike

October 2, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- The election year is in full swing, complete with allegations of class warfare and claims about which candidates cater to the rich and which candidates will best serve the interests of the poor and the middle class. But a new study, co-authored by North Carolina State University researcher Dr. Chris Ellis, explores the idea that Congress and the White House act on behalf of the wealthy – and shows that it would be impossible to cater solely to any socioeconomic group, because people's preferences tend to be overwhelmingly similar when it comes to how the federal government should spend its money.

The study shows that "Even if government wanted to respond only to the interests of the rich, it couldn't," Ellis says, "because the rich and the poor tend to share similar political viewpoints – at least on economic issues."

In the study, researchers used data from the long-running General Social Survey to measure public opinion on government spending from 1973 to 2006 – and found that political sentiment was very similar between the various socioeconomic groups. Basically, trends among rich, poor and middle-class voters toward becoming more liberal or more conservative tended to take place at the same time. Ellis explains that the trends happened at the same time because both rich and poor responded to changes in the nation's economic health, or the actions of the federal government, in broadly similar ways. Ellis, an assistant professor of political science at NC State, co-authored the study with Dr. Joseph Ura, an assistant professor of political science at Texas A&M University.

The study concludes that the federal government acts on the preferences of all income groups either because it can't tell the difference between the preferences of the rich versus the poor, or because officeholders wish to represent the desires of the public as a whole. The study, "Income, Preferences, and the Dynamics of Policy Responsiveness," was published in the Oct. 3 issue of the journal Political Science and Politics.

"This does not mean that the government is actually acting in the best interests of the poor," Ellis says, "only that what the poor want is similar to what the rich want in terms of how the government appropriates its funds." For example, the public's views of what the federal government should do with respect to education, health care and the environment are similar regardless of socioeconomic level. Ellis notes, however, that social issues – such as abortion – were not considered in the study.

Citation: "Income, Preferences, and the Dynamics of Policy Responsiveness", Authors: Dr. Christopher R. Ellis, North Carolina State University, and Dr. Joseph Daniel Ura, Texas A&M University, Published: Oct. 2, 2008, in Political Science and Politics

Provided by North Carolina State University

Explore further: Study explains why hemp and marijuana are different

Related Stories

Is your fear of radiation irrational?

July 14, 2015

Bad Gastein in the Austrian Alps. It's 10am on a Wednesday in early March, cold and snowy – but not in the entrance to the main gallery of what was once a gold mine. Togged out in swimming trunks, flip-flops and a bath ...

Recommended for you

French teen finds 560,000 year-old tooth (Update)

July 28, 2015

A 16-year-old French volunteer archaeologist has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in southwestern France, in what researchers hailed as a "major discovery" Tuesday.

The couple who Facebooks together, stays together

July 27, 2015

Becoming "Facebook official" is a milestone in modern romance, and new research suggests that activities on the popular social networking site are connected to whether those relationships last.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.