Nav: Home

Support for democracy linked to income inequality

November 17, 2016

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Voter satisfaction with democracy may have less to do with who actually wins an election and more to do with income inequality, or the gap between rich and poor, indicates a new study by Michigan State University political scientists.

Eric Chang and Sung Min Han studied presidential and parliamentary elections in 43 countries, including the United States, and found that rising income inequality widens the gap in satisfaction with democracy between electoral winners and losers. The findings will be published in the December issue of the journal Electoral Studies.

"This study suggests that the degree of income inequality is the real driver behind electoral winners and losers' satisfaction with democracy," said Chang, associate professor of political science. "Elections matter much more for both the rich and poor when income inequality is high."

Income inequality in the United States has risen dramatically in recent decades, driven largely by the very rich getting richer. The share of income owned by the top 10 percent of the wealthiest households increased from 32 percent in 1970 to 47 percent in 2014, according to the Census Bureau.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to revive small-town America - a pledge that most experts believe must involve tackling the income gap.

Past research found that voters who support winning parties are more satisfied with democracy than those who vote for the losers. In this winner-loser gap theory, the difference in satisfaction levels is smaller in consensus democracies where the losing party can still affect policy outcomes, suggesting an institutional effect.

But the MSU study is one of the first to argue that the effects of economic inequality are more critical to satisfaction with democracy than the institutional effects of political systems.

That's because both the upper and lower income classes are affected by how politicians address increasing income inequality. As the disparity between rich and poor grows, the poor intensify their demand for the redistribution of wealth. The rich, meanwhile, become more anxious about the possibility of losing income.

"Our findings suggest that rising income inequality pits political winners and losers against each other," Chang said. "And this conflict over economic interests can undermine citizens' satisfaction with democracy and lead to instability."
-end-


Michigan State University

Related Income Inequality Articles:

Study: Climate change damages US economy, increases inequality
Unmitigated climate change will make the United States poorer and more unequal, according to a new study published in the journal Science.
The physics of wealth inequality
A Duke engineering professor has proposed an explanation for why the income disparity in America between the rich and poor continues to grow.
Physics can predict wealth inequality
The 2016 election year highlighted the growing problem of wealth inequality and finding ways to help the people who are falling behind.
New UTSA study delves into income inequality and inflation
A new study by Edgar Ghossoub, associate professor of economics at The University of Texas at San Antonio, posits that income inequality, in varying economies, can have substantial positive and negative effects for people in all walks of life depending on what kind of financial system they live under.
Racial gap in children's asthma linked to social inequality
African-American and poor children in the United States suffer disproportionately from asthma.
More Income Inequality News and Income Inequality Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...