When Does Self-Interest Motivate Political Engagement? The Case of Climate Change
19 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2017
Date Written: March 12, 2017
Past work finds that material self-interest often motivates increased issue engagement. In this paper we identify an important condition under which the opposite can occur. When people see an issue as threatening to harm material well-being, and they are already facing related resource constraints in their own lives, then they become more concerned about the issue yet less willing to spend scarce resources on issue activism. We demonstrate this point by showing that, among people facing recent health hardships, framing climate change in terms of how it will harm health (a key resource for political participation) is persuasive yet demobilizing. These results advance our theoretical understanding of political participation by showing how people's subjective perceptions of their resources are context dependent. They also show how the motivational influence of material self-interest can have divergent effects on public opinion versus political participation.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation