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Funk: The dual influence of self-interest and societal interest in public opinion

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Funk. 2000. The dual influence of self-interest and societal interest in public opinion. Political Research Quarterly 53 (March): 37-62.


Self-interest and societal interest both affect the opinions of people on issues, with societal interest mitigating the influence of self-interest.

Funk presents a dichotomy between self-interest and societal interest, and says that rational choice typically explains even benevolent actions as resulting from self-interest rather than genuine societal interest. Funk argues that strong evidence for societal interest would be when citizens sacrifice self-interest in the public interest. Societal interest is likely to underlie political attitudes, she says, because individuals often differentiate between the public and private and so see little impact of government on their own well being, they often rely on socio-tropic information when making decisions, and that collective-benefit can be a motive for political behavior.



Those with low societal interest were less likely to support programs if they do not receive a benefit than if they do, which supports a self-interested model. Societal interest tended to decrease the link between self-interest and policy support. Individuals with high societal interest were less likely to support a position when it benefited them than those with low societal interest, while the opposite occurred when the position would not benefit them.


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Funk, Carolyn (author)Political TheorySelf-InterestVotingTurnoutProsocial Behavior

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