Investigating How Socioeconomic Status May Relate to Political Action via Psychological Mechanisms

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McKee, Stephanie, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Brown-Iannuzzi, Jazmin, AS-Psychology (PSYC), University of Virginia

A resource model of political participation suggests that because higher socioeconomic status (SES) individuals have more financial resources and social capital, they are more likely to vote than lower SES individuals (e.g., Gurin, Hatchett, & Jackson, 1989; Verba & Nie, 1972). However, this is only part of the picture. In this paper, I investigated the role of subjective socioeconomic status (SSS) – feeling relatively richer or poor - on political action. Utilizing American National Election Studies data form 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020, as well as data from a nationally representative correlational study I examined the effect of SSS on various forms of political action. Further, I investigated potential mediators of the relationship between SSS and political actions. I was specifically interested in the mediating effect of one’s sense of control and power, but also explored additional potential mediators (identified by previous research) such as distrust in the government, political efficacy, and interest in politics. Overall, I find that higher SSS predicts more political action across a wide range of different actions and years. However, I find relatively inconsistent mediation patterns across political actions and years. I conclude by suggesting that more work is needed to better understand this pattern.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Subjective social status, Political action, Psychological mechanisms
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