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Explaining Information Effects in Collective Preferences
Unformatted Document Text:  decision rules for resolving this ambivalence. In social spending questions such as these, support increases when recipients of spending are perceived as especially deserving of help (Appelbaum 2001; Cook and Barrett 1992; Nelson and Kinder 1996) and when questions focus on specific programs rather than general categories of programs (Jacoby 2000) . 11 Spending on poor people seems somewhat more specific than spending on welfare programs, and poor people elicit more positive feelings than people on welfare: in the 1996 ANES, the mean feeling thermometer score for poor people was 70 out of 100, compared to a tepid 51 for people on welfare. It is therefore tempting to conclude that information effects in these questions take the shape they do merely because the ill informed lean more heavily than the well informed on a “desert” heuristic (Sniderman, Brody, and Tetlock 1991) when deducing their spending preferences. However, the data reveal a more complicated story. The attitudes of ill-informed people toward welfare spending do seem to reflect a simple desert heuristic, but their attitudes toward spending on poor people have a more complex structure (table 2). Feelings toward welfare recipients are the only significant predictor of support for increased welfare spending among the least knowledgeable respondents. In contrast, spending preferences for poor people among these respondents are significantly influenced by their feelings toward poor people, concern for social equality and opinions on governmental responsibility for taking care of the poor. 12 These attitudes are also significant predictors among respondents from the highest knowledge quartile, who apply the same attitude structure to both questions, differing only in whether feelings toward poor people or welfare recipients are brought to bear when answering each question. INSERT TABLE 2 ABOUT HERE 11 Preferences on welfare spending in the United States are also strongly influenced by attitudes toward African-Americans, so much so that welfare gives all appearances of being a racial code word (Gilens 1999). However, the magnitude of this association appears to be the same for both versions of the question considered here (Smith 1987). 12 Feeling thermometer scores were used to represent feelings toward poor people (v961035) and people on welfare (v961036). A scale of egalitarianism was constructed by averaging v961229[reversed], v961230, v961231[reversed], v961232, v961233, and v961234[reversed]. Attitudes toward governmental responsibility for jobs and a good standard of living was constructed from the standard seven-point item (v960483), which was reverse-coded so that higher values reflected higher levels of governmental responsibility.

Authors: Althaus, Scott.
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decision rules for resolving this ambivalence. In social spending questions such as these, support
increases when recipients of spending are perceived as especially deserving of help
(Appelbaum
2001; Cook and Barrett 1992; Nelson and Kinder 1996)
and when questions focus on specific
programs rather than general categories of programs
(Jacoby 2000)
.
11
Spending on poor people
seems somewhat more specific than spending on welfare programs, and poor people elicit more
positive feelings than people on welfare: in the 1996 ANES, the mean feeling thermometer score for
poor people was 70 out of 100, compared to a tepid 51 for people on welfare. It is therefore tempting
to conclude that information effects in these questions take the shape they do merely because the ill
informed lean more heavily than the well informed on a “desert” heuristic
(Sniderman, Brody, and
Tetlock 1991)
when deducing their spending preferences. However, the data reveal a more
complicated story.
The attitudes of ill-informed people toward welfare spending do seem to reflect a simple desert
heuristic, but their attitudes toward spending on poor people have a more complex structure (table 2).
Feelings toward welfare recipients are the only significant predictor of support for increased welfare
spending among the least knowledgeable respondents. In contrast, spending preferences for poor
people among these respondents are significantly influenced by their feelings toward poor people,
concern for social equality and opinions on governmental responsibility for taking care of the poor.
12
These attitudes are also significant predictors among respondents from the highest knowledge
quartile, who apply the same attitude structure to both questions, differing only in whether feelings
toward poor people or welfare recipients are brought to bear when answering each question.
INSERT TABLE 2 ABOUT HERE
11 Preferences on welfare spending in the United States are also strongly influenced by attitudes toward
African-Americans, so much so that welfare gives all appearances of being a racial code word (Gilens 1999).
However, the magnitude of this association appears to be the same for both versions of the question considered here
(Smith 1987).
12 Feeling thermometer scores were used to represent feelings toward poor people (v961035) and people on
welfare (v961036). A scale of egalitarianism was constructed by averaging v961229[reversed], v961230,
v961231[reversed], v961232, v961233, and v961234[reversed]. Attitudes toward governmental responsibility for
jobs and a good standard of living was constructed from the standard seven-point item (v960483), which was
reverse-coded so that higher values reflected higher levels of governmental responsibility.


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