Do Citizens Link Attitudes with Preferences? Economic Inequality and Government Spending in the “New Gilded Age”


  • The author will share all data and coding for replication purposes. The author would like to thank Christopher Dennis, Antonio Ugues Jr., Martin Johnson, and Benjamin Bishin for comments on earlier drafts.



This article investigates the extent to which people link policy preferences with unequal outcomes. As the American public is both aware and supportive of reducing income inequality in the abstract, it is an open question whether this concern is translated into support for policies that might help alleviate the rise in economic inequality.


Ordinary least squares (OLS) regression is used with data from the General Social Survey (GSS).


The relationship between attitudes about wealth inequality and spending preferences is positive, but not strong. Moreover, there is no evidence that the least well-off are more attuned to linking attitudes about inequality with spending preferences than the upper or middle classes.


The main findings suggest that while citizens are able to link attitudes about inequality with spending preferences, the link might not be strong enough to propel elected officials to act as wealth inequality expands.