An Attributional Analysis of Reactions to Poverty: The Political Ideology of the Giver and the Perceived Morality of the Receiver
An attributional analysis of reactions to poverty is presented. The article begins by discussing the perceived causes of poverty and their taxonomic properties (locus, stability, and controllability). One antecedent of causal beliefs, political ideology, is then examined in detail, followed by a review of the effects of causal beliefs on emotions and behavior. It is contended that helping the poor is a moral issue, but the moral evaluation concerns the targeted recipient of aid rather than the potential help giver. Persons perceived as responsible for their plight, a dominant construal for conservatives, elicit anger and neglect. In contrast, those seen as not responsible for their financial hardship, an outlook predominantly endorsed by liberals, arouse sympathy and help giving. Sympathy is the most important proximal determinant of aid. This analysis is extended to reactions to achievement failure, abortion, and rape. Policy implications are also examined.