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The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind

The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won't Admit It

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind
    Book Description:

    When it comes to politics, we often perceive our own beliefs as fair and socially beneficial, while seeing opposing views as merely self-serving. But in fact most political views are governed by self-interest, even if we usually don't realize it. Challenging our fiercely held notions about what motivates us politically, this book explores how self-interest divides the public on a host of hot-button issues, from abortion and the legalization of marijuana to same-sex marriage, immigration, affirmative action, and income redistribution.

    Expanding the notion of interests beyond simple economics, Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban look at how people's interests clash when it comes to their sex lives, social status, family, and friends. Drawing on a wealth of data, they demonstrate how different groups form distinctive bundles of political positions that often stray far from what we typically think of as liberal or conservative. They show how we engage in unconscious rationalization to justify our political positions, portraying our own views as wise, benevolent, and principled while casting our opponents' views as thoughtless and greedy.

    While many books on politics seek to provide partisans with new ways to feel good about their own side,The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mindilluminates the hidden drivers of our politics, even if it's a picture neither side will find flattering.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5196-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Part I: Political Minds

    • CHAPTER 1 Agendas in Action
      (pp. 3-25)

      Mitt Romney was defeated by self-interest. Not his own, but the self-interested voting of poor minorities and those meddling kids.

      At least that’s how he saw things in the week after his 2012 election loss to the incumbent, President Barack Obama. On a conference call with disappointed fund-raisers and donors, Romney offered his postgame analysis: “What the president’s campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote, and that strategy worked.”

      Romney and his strategists listed the policy gifts...

    • CHAPTER 2 Investigating Interests
      (pp. 26-43)

      Mitt Romney blamed his 2012 election loss on self-interested voting. Many leading figures in the academy, however, are, to say the least, skeptical of this kind of explanation:

      [S]elf-interest ordinarily does not have much effect on the mass public’s political attitudes.

      David Sears and Carolyn Funk, professors(1990)¹

      Unless the material outcomes from a public policy or issue are very clear, very large, and very imminent, self-interest does not determine opinion or action.

      Charles Taber, professor(2003)²

      The current scholarly consensus holds that self-interest is not a major determinant of issue attitudes or voting choices.

      Michael Lewis-Beck, William Jacoby, Helmut...

    • CHAPTER 3 Machiavellian Minds
      (pp. 44-66)

      Suppose a journalist wanted to know why Big Regional Bank (BRB) sponsored the Local International Arts Festival. To find out, the journalist might ask BRB’s corporate office. The reply would probably come from its public relations department and say something about BRB’s views on the importance of being a good corporate citizen and the role that the arts play in the quality of life of the region’s citizens—especially the children.BRB is proud to be a part of this life-affirming educational and cultural event… and so on.

      Suppose a journalist wanted to know why a presidential administration was...

  4. Part II: Political Issues

    • CHAPTER 4 Fighting over Sex: Lifestyle Issues and Religion
      (pp. 69-95)

      When it comes to sex and fertility, the United States and other developed countries are incredibly diverse. It’s easy to look at the sexual revolution, for example, and think that the road from the 1950s to the present in the United States led fromFather Knows Best to Sex and the City. A closer look shows that the country moved from one in which most people had lasting marriages and lots of kids to one in which there is tremendous variety. The old patterns didn’t die out; they just shrank.

      The generation born in the 1930s that came of age...

    • CHAPTER 5 Rules of the Game: Group Identities and Human Capital
      (pp. 96-122)

      The New York Yankees have made the playoffs in sixteen out of the last eighteen seasons. (The exceptions were 2008 and 2013.) Given that there are thirty Major League Baseball teams, only a quarter of which reach the playoffs, this is an astounding record.

      They have also consistently spent more on player salaries than every other team. In 2012, for instance, they spent just shy of $200 million, nearly four times as much as the San Diego Padres, who spent $55 million. The Yankees spent $20 million more than the next most spendy team, the Philadelphia Phillies.

      This circumstance could...

    • CHAPTER 6 Money Matters: Redistribution and Hard-Times Programs
      (pp. 123-142)

      A typical American with a graduate degree—MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, and so on—lives in a household with income greater than $100,000 a year (for everyone else, median household income is less than $60,000 a year). Yet recall from chapter 1 that the 2012 exit polls showed that Obama won among those with graduate degrees by 13 points while Romney won among those with incomes of $100,000 or more by 10 points. People with lots of education tend to have higher incomes, but the two have opposite influences on party votes.

      The ways each side complains about the...

  5. Part III: Political Coalitions

    • CHAPTER 7 The Many Shades of Red and Blue
      (pp. 145-159)

      Over the past dozen years, we’ve been involved with an ongoing study of a group of people born in the mid-1950s. About 90% of the group are white, about two-thirds are men, and they have median family incomes in the top 1% or 2% of the country. They’re likely to be married and they have pretty low divorce rates. Most have two or more kids, the men tend to work hard and spend most of their time off with their families, and the women were unusually likely to stop working full-time while they had young children.

      Sounds like a bunch...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Republican Coalition
      (pp. 160-175)

      Jesse Helms was about as conservative as any U.S. senator in the modern era. A Southern Baptist from North Carolina, he was conservative on both lifestyle and fiscal issues and, moreover, held views on group-based issues that, putting it mildly, couldn’t exist anymore among national politicians. Helms began his political career working on the staff of a segregationist senator in the 1950s and was a persistent opponent of civil rights. In the 1990s, he opposed AIDS funding because, he said, it was homosexuals’ “deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct” that was to blame for the disease. The 1990s version of Helms draws...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Democratic Coalition
      (pp. 176-192)

      The modern Republican coalition is like a tree. The trunk consists of white, heterosexual Christians on the wealthy/religious side whom we call Boehners and Boehner Women. The branches consist of groups of people who are like Boehners but with some important exceptions. Johnsons are like Boehners except they don’t go to church regularly … and don’t have conservative opinions on lifestyles. Church Ladies are like Boehners and Boehner Women except they have lower incomes … and typically lack conservative opinions on economic issues. Johnsons and Church Ladies might disagree with each other on a wide range of issues, but both...

  6. Part IV: Political Challenges

    • CHAPTER 10 An Uncomfortable Take on Political Positions
      (pp. 195-216)

      From cocktail parties to cable networks to the halls of congress, people who disagree about politics nonetheless come together and agree on one point: Political differences exist because one side is fair, reasonable, and public-spirited while the other side is unfair, unreasonable, selfish, mean, and hypocritical. (They just don’t agree on which side is which.)

      As neighborhoods and media outlets become increasingly politically segregated, these kinds of explanations become more extreme, unfiltered by the usual demands of politeness that would otherwise temper one’s impulses in mixed company. It’s easy to describe one’s political opponents as corrupt boobs and idiot saboteurs...

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 217-218)
  8. Appendixes

    • Data Appendix for Chapter 2
      (pp. 219-235)
    • Data Appendix for Part II
      (pp. 236-250)
    • Data Appendix for Chapter 4
      (pp. 251-267)
    • Data Appendix for Chapter 5
      (pp. 268-286)
    • Data Appendix for Chapter 6
      (pp. 287-303)
    • Data Appendix for Chapter 8
      (pp. 304-320)
    • Data Appendix for Chapter 9
      (pp. 321-342)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 343-350)
  10. References
    (pp. 351-358)
  11. Index
    (pp. 359-364)