Predicting Citizen Support of Tax Increases for Education: A Comparison of Two Social Psychological Perspectives


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    The authors would like to thank Paul J. Lavrakas for his assistance with the survey and his comments on this manuscript. Thanks are also due to Fay L. Cook, Tom R. Tyler and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions on how to improve the manuscript. The study was conducted while the first author was supported by an NIMH research fellowship, Grant No. IT3 MH17053 in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at the University of Chicago.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Kenneth A. Rasinski, NORC, Methodology Center, The University of Chicago, 1155 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637.


A survey of citizen support of a proposal to increase property taxes for public education was conducted in a school district in Illinois. Two social psychological perspectives predicting support were tested. One perspective, derived from social exchange theory, predicted that citizens would base their support of or opposition to a tax increase primarily on perceived self-interested economic gain or loss. A second perspective predicted that non-self-interested concerns, such as attitudes toward the schools, would determine support of or opposition to a tax increase. Although both models received support, the strongest and mat consistent predictors of tax support among those most likely to be voters were the non-self-interested factors. Implications of these findings for public policy and for understanding political behavior are discussed.