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Self-Interest, Symbolic Attitudes, and Support for Public Policy: A Multilevel Analysis
Political Psychology (2009)
  • Richard R Lau
  • Caroline Heldman, Occidental College
This paper examines the role of self-interest and symbolic attitudes as predictors of support for two domestic policy issues—guaranteed jobs and incomes and national health insurance—in the American National Election Survey (ANES) between 1972 and 2004. As was the case in 1976 when Sears, Lau, Tyler, and Allen (1980) first explored this topic, symbolic attitudes continue to be much more important predictors of policy attitudes than various indicators of self-interest over the 30 years we analyze. We explore this finding further to determine whether any individual/internal and external/contextual variables affect the magnitude of self-interest effects on policy support. Five possible internal moderators of self-interest effects are examined: (1) political knowledge, (2) issue publics, (3) political values, (4) social identifications, and (5) emotions, but none are found to boost the magnitude of the self-interest effect. However, we do find some evidence that contextual variables representing the social/information environment moderate the impact of self-interest on public opinion.
  • Symbolic politics,
  • Self-interest,
  • Government health insurance,
  • Guaranteed jobs,
  • Contextual effects,
  • Hierarchical linear models
Publication Date
August, 2009
Citation Information
Richard R Lau and Caroline Heldman. "Self-Interest, Symbolic Attitudes, and Support for Public Policy: A Multilevel Analysis" Political Psychology Vol. 30 Iss. 4 (2009)
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