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Material Welfare and Changing Political Preferences: The Case of Support for Redistributive Social Policies


The relationship between political preferences and material circumstances has stimulated one of the most vibrant discussions in the social sciences. However, the verdict is still out on the extent to which political preferences are a function of material circumstances, stable ideological commitments, or some combination thereof. Drawing on new panel data from the General Social Survey, we further this debate by examining whether becoming unemployed or losing income affects individuals’ preferences for redistribution. Using individual-level fixed-effects models, we show that preferences for redistribution are malleable, rather than fixed, corresponding to predictions offered by a materialist perspective. Individuals want more redistribution when they experience unemployment or lose household income. Ultimately, we contribute new empirical insights that further the sociological understanding of the forces shaping political preferences.