Political Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 503–525 | Cite as

Explaining Public Support for Counterproductive Homelessness Policy: The Role of Disgust

Original Paper

Abstract

Federal, state, and city governments spend substantial funds on programs intended to aid homeless people, and such programs attract widespread public support. In recent years, however, state and local governments have increasingly enacted policies, such as bans on panhandling and sleeping in public, that are counterproductive to alleviating homelessness. Yet these policies also garner substantial support from the public. Given that programs aiding the homeless are so popular, why are these counterproductive policies also popular? We argue that disgust plays a key role in the resolution of this puzzle. While disgust does not decrease support for aid policies or even generate negative affect towards homeless people, it motivates the desire for physical distance, leading to support for policies that exclude homeless people from public life. We test this argument using survey data, including a national sample with an embedded experiment. Consistent with these expectations, our findings indicate that those respondents who are dispositionally sensitive to disgust are more likely to support exclusionary policies, such as banning panhandling, but no less likely to support policies intended to aid homeless people. Furthermore, media depictions of the homeless that include disease cues activate disgust, increasing its impact on support for banning panhandling. These results help explain the popularity of exclusionary homelessness policies and challenge common perspectives on the role of group attitudes in public life.

Keywords

Public opinion Homelessness Disgust Group attitudes 

Supplementary material

11109_2016_9366_MOESM1_ESM.docx (60 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 59 kb)

References

  1. Aarøe, L. (2011). investigating frame strength: the case of episodic and thematic frames. Political Communication, 28(2), 207–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aarøe, L., & Petersen, M. B. (2014). Crowding out culture: scandinavians and americans agree on social welfare in the face of deservingness cues. The Journal of Politics, 76(03), 684–697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aberson, C. L., & McVean, Aaron D. W. (2008). Contact and anxiety as predictors of bias toward the homeless 1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38(12), 3009–3035.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Acorn, S. (1993). Mental and physical health of homeless persons who use emergency shelters in vancouver. Psychiatric Services, 44(9), 854–857.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Amster, R. (2003). Patterns of exclusion: sanitizing space, criminalizing homelessness. Social Justice, 30(1), 195–221.Google Scholar
  6. Berinsky, A. J., Huber, G. A., & Lenz, G. S. (2012). Evaluating online labor markets for experimental research: amazon.com’s mechanical turk. Political Analysis, 20(3), 351–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chong, D. (1993). How people think, reason, and feel about rights and liberties. American Journal of Political Science, 37, 867–899.Google Scholar
  8. Cikara, M., & Fiske, S. T. (2011). Bounded empathy: neural responses to outgroup targets’ (mis)fortunes. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(12), 3791–3803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clifford, S., Jewell, R. M., & Waggoner, P. D. (2015). Are samples drawn from mechanical turk valid for research on political ideology? Research & Politics, 2(4), 2053168015622072.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clifford, S., & Wendell, D. G. (2016). How disgust influences health purity attitudes. Political Behavior, 38(1), 155–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cottrell, C. A., & Neuberg, S. L. (2005). Different emotional reactions to different groups: a sociofunctional threat-based approach to ‘prejudice’. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88(5), 770–789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Curtis, V., & Biran, A. (2001). Dirt, disgust, and disease: is hygiene in our genes? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 44(1), 17–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Curtis, V., Robert A., & Tamer R. (2004). Evidence that disgust evolved to protect from risk of disease. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 271(Suppl_4), S131–33.Google Scholar
  14. Deacon, B., & Olatunji, B. O. (2007). Specificity of disgust sensitivity in the prediction of behavioral avoidance in contamination fear. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45(9), 2110–2120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dear, M., & Gleeson, B. (1991). Community attitudes toward the homeless. Urban Geography, 12(2), 155–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Faulkner, J., Schaller, M., Park, J. H., & Duncan, L. A. (2004). Evolved disease-avoidance mechanisms and contemporary xenophobic attitudes. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 7(4), 333–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fessler, Daniel M. T., Eng, S. J., & David Navarrete, C. (2005). Elevated disgust sensitivity in the first trimester of pregnancy. Evolution and Human Behavior, 26(4), 344–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fiske, S. T. (2009). From dehumanization and objectification to rehumanization: neuroimaging studies on the building blocks of empathy. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1167, 31–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fiske, S. T. (2010). envy up, scorn down: how comparison divides us. The American psychologist, 65(8), 698–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J. C., & Glick, P. (2007). Universal dimensions of social cognition: warmth and competence. Trends in cognitive sciences, 11(2), 77–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, Amy J. C., Glick, P., & Jun, X. (2002). A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 878–902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Foscarinis, M., Cunningham-Bowers, K., & Brown, K. E. (1999). Out of sight—out of mind: the continuing trend toward the criminalization of homelessness. Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy, 6(2), 145–164.Google Scholar
  23. Free, L. A., & Cantril, H. (1967). The political beliefs of americans: a study of public opinion. Rahway: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Gelberg, L., & Linn, L. S. (1989). Assessing the physical health of homeless adults. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 262(14), 1973–1979.Google Scholar
  25. Gelberg, L., Linn, L. S., Usatine, R. P., & Smith, M. H. (1990). Health, homelessness, and poverty. Archives of Internal Medicine, 150(11), 2325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gilens, M. (1999). Why Americans hate welfare: Race, media, and the politics of antipoverty policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Greene, K., & Banerjee, S. C. (2008). Disease-related stigma. Journal of Homosexuality, 50(4), 185–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gross, K. (2008). Framing persuasive appeals: episodic and thematic framing, emotional response, and policy opinion. Political Psychology, 29(2), 169–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Harris, L. T., & Fiske, S. T. (2006). Social groups that elicit disgust are differentially processed in mPFC. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2(1), 45–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hauser, D. J., & Norbert, S. (2015). Attentive Turkers: MTurk participants perform better on online attention checks than do subject pool participants. Behavior Research Methods, 48(1), 400–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hodson, G., Dube, B., & Choma, B. L. (2015). Can (elaborated) imagined contact interventions reduce prejudice among those higher in intergroup disgust sensitivity (itg-ds)? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 45(3), 123–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Huang, J. Y., Sedlovskaya, A., Ackerman, J. M., & Bargh, J. A. (2011). Immunizing against prejudice: effects of disease protection on attitudes toward out-groups. Psychological Science, 22(12), 1550–1556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hutchings, V. H., & Piston, S. (2011). The determinants and political consequences of prejudice. In J. N. Druckman, D. P. Green, J. H. Kuklinski, & A. Lupia (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of experimental political science. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Inbar, Y., Pizarro, D. A., & Bloom, P. (2012). Disgusting smells cause decreased liking of gay men. Emotion, 12(1), 23–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Inbar, Y., Pizarro, D. A., Knobe, J., & Bloom, P. (2009). Disgust sensitivity predicts intuitive disapproval of gays. Emotion, 9(3), 435–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jacoby, W. G. (2000). Issue framing and public opinion on government spending. American Journal of Political Science, 44(4), 750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Johnson, D. D. P., Blumstein, D. T., Fowler, J. H., & Haselton, M. G. (2013). The evolution of error: error management, cognitive constraints, and adaptive decision-making biases. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 28(8), 474–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kalmoe, N., & Piston, S. (2013). Is implicit prejudice toward blacks politically consequential? evidence from the amp. Public Opinion Quarterly, 77, 305–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Knecht, T., & Lisa, M. (2012). Engaging the reluctant? service learning, interpersonal contact, and attitudes toward homeless individuals. PS. Political Science & Politics, 45(01), 106–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Knecht, T., & Martinez, L. M. (2009). Humanizing the Homeless: does Contact Erode Stereotypes? Social Science Research, 38(3), 521–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Krupnikov, Y., & Piston, S. (2015a). Accentuating the negative: candidate race and campaign strategy. Political Communication, 32, 152–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Krupnikov, Y., & Piston, S. (2015b). Racial prejudice, partisanship, and white turnout in elections with black candidates. Political Behavior, 37, 397–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Krupnikov, Y., & Piston, S. (2016). The political consequences of latino prejudice against blacks. Public Opinion Quarterly, 80, 480–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Krupnikov, Y., Piston, S., & Bauer, N. (2016). “Saving face: identifying voter responses to black and female candidates. Political Psychology, 37, 253–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kurzban, R., & Leary, M. R. (2001). Evolutionary origins of stigmatization: the functions of social exclusion. Psychological Bulletin, 127(2), 187–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lieberman, D., & Patrick, C. (2014). Are the behavioral immune system and pathogen disgust identical? Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 8(4), 244–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Lieberman, D. L., Tybur, J. M., & Latner, J. D. (2012). Disgust sensitivity, obesity stigma, and gender: contamination psychology predicts weight bias for women, not men. Obesity, 20(9), 1803–1814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Link, B. G., et al. (1995). Public knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about homeless people: evidence for compassion fatigue? American Journal of Community Psychology, 23(4), 533–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Luby, S. P., et al. (2005). Effect of handwashing on child health: a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 366(9481), 225–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lupia, A., Casey, L. S., Karl, K. L., Piston, S., Ryan, T. J., & Skovron, C. (2015). What does it take to reduce racial prejudice in individual-level candidate evaluations? A formal theoretic perspective. Political Science Research and Methods, 3, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mullinix, K. J., Leeper, T. J., Druckman, J. N., & Freese, J. (2016). The generalizability of survey experiments. Journal of Experimental Political Science, 2(02), 109–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Murray, D. R., Schaller, M., & Suedfeld, P. (2013). Pathogens and politics: further evidence that parasite prevalence predicts authoritarianism. PLoS ONE, 8(5), e62275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Navarrete, C. D., & Fessler, Daniel M. T. (2006). Disease avoidance and ethnocentrism: the effects of disease vulnerability and disgust sensitivity on intergroup attitudes. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27(4), 270–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Navarrete, C. D., Fessler, Daniel M. T., & Eng, S. J. (2007). Elevated ethnocentrism in the first trimester of pregnancy. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28(1), 60–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Nelson, T. E., & Kinder, D. R. (1996). Issue frames and group-centrism in American public opinion. The Journal of Politics, 58(4), 1055–1078.Google Scholar
  56. Neuberg, S. L., & Schaller, M. (2016). An evolutionary threat-management approach to prejudices. Current Opinion in Psychology, 7, 1–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Oaten, M., Stevenson, R. J., & Case, T. I. (2009). Disgust as a disease-avoidance mechanism. Psychological Bulletin, 135(2), 303–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Olatunji, B. O. (2008). Disgust, scrupulosity and conservative attitudes about sex: evidence for a mediational model of homophobia. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(5), 1364–1369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Olatunji, B. O., et al. (2012). The three domains of disgust scale: factor structure, psychometric properties, and conceptual limitations. Assessment, 19(2), 205–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Oum, R. E., Lieberman, D., & Aylward, A. (2011). A feel for disgust: tactile cues to pathogen presence. Cognition and Emotion, 25(4), 717–725.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Page, B. I., & Jacobs, L. R. (2009). Class war? what americans really think about economic inequality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Park, J. H., Faulkner, J., & Schaller, M. (2003). Evolved disease-avoidance processes and contemporary anti-social behavior: prejudicial attitudes and avoidance of people with physical disabilities. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 27(2), 65–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Park, J. H., Schaller, M., & Crandall, C. S. (2007). Pathogen-avoidance mechanisms and the stigmatization of obese people. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28(6), 410–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Park, J. H., van Leeuwen, F., & Chochorelou, Y. (2013). Disease-avoidance processes and stigmatization: cues of substandard health arouse heightened discomfort with physical contact. The Journal of social psychology, 153(2), 212–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Park, J. H., van Leeuwen, F., & Stephen, I. D. (2012). Homeliness Is in the disgust sensitivity of the beholder: relatively unattractive faces appear especially unattractive to individuals higher in pathogen disgust. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33(5), 569–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Pellegrino, R., Crandall, P. G., & Seo, H.-S. (2015). Hand washing and disgust response to handling different food stimuli between two different cultures. Food Research International, 76, 301–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Pellegrino, R., Crandall, P. G., & Seo, H.-S. (2016). Using olfaction and unpleasant reminders to reduce the intention-behavior gap in hand washing. Scientific reports, 6, 18890.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Petersen, M. B. (2012). Social welfare as small-scale help: evolutionary psychology and the deservingness heuristic. American Journal of Political Science, 56(1), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Phelan, J., Link, B. G., Moore, R. E., & Stueve, A. (1997). The stigma of homelessness: the impact of the label ‘homeless’ on attitudes toward poor persons. Social Psychology Quarterly, 60(4), 323–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Piston, S. (2010). How explicit racial prejudice hurt Obama in the 2008 election. Political Behavior, 32, 431–451.Google Scholar
  71. Raoult, D., Foucault, C., & Brouqui, P. (2001). Infections in the homeless. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 1(2), 77–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Rhodes, G., et al. (2001). Do facial averageness and symmetry signal health? Evolution and Human Behavior, 22(1), 31–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Rozin, P., Haidt, J., & McCauley, C. R. (2008). Disgust. In M. Lewis, J. M. Haviland-Jones, & L. Feldman Barrett (Eds.), Handbook of Emotions2 (pp. 757–776). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  74. Rozin, P., Millman, L., & Nemeroff, C. (1986). Operation of the laws of sympathetic magic in disgust and other domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(4), 703–712.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Rozin, P., et al. (1999). Individual differences in disgust sensitivity: comparisons and evaluations of paper-and-pencil versus behavioral measures. Journal of Research in Personality, 33(3), 330–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Schaller, M., & Park, J. H. (2011). The behavioral immune system (and why it matters). Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(2), 99–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Schaller, M., et al. (2010). Mere visual perception of other people’s disease symptoms facilitates a more aggressive immune response. Psychological Science, 21(5), 649–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Schnall, S., Haidt, J., Clore, G. L., & Jordan, A. H. (2008). Disgust as embodied moral judgment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(8), 1096–1109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Scott, S. E., Inbar, Y., & Rozin, P. (2016). Evidence for absolute moral opposition to genetically modified food in the United States. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(3), 315–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Sherlock, J. M., Zietsch, B. P., Tybur, J. M., & Jern, P. (2016). The quantitative genetics of disgust sensitivity. Emotion, 16(1), 43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Shields, T. G. (2001). Network news construction of homelessness: 1980–1993. The Communication Review, 4(2), 193–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Shinn, M. (1992). Homelessness: what is a psychologist to do? American Journal of Community Psychology, 20(1), 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Smith, K. B., et al. (2011). Disgust sensitivity and the neurophysiology of left-right political orientations. PLoS ONE, 6(10), e25552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Stier, A., & Hinshaw, S. P. (2007). Explicit and implicit stigma against individuals with mental illness. Australian Psychologist, 4, 367–393.Google Scholar
  85. Strother, L., Piston, S., & Ogorzalek, T. (forthcoming). Pride or prejudice? Racial prejudice, Southern heritage, and white support for the Confederate battle flag. The DuBois Review.Google Scholar
  86. Terrizzi, J. A., Shook, N. J., & McDaniel, M. A. (2013). The behavioral immune system and social conservatism: a meta-analysis. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(2), 99–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Tompsett, C. J., et al. (2006). Homelessness in the United States: assessing changes in prevalence and public opinion, 1993-2001. American Journal of Community Psychology, 37(1–2), 29–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Toro, P. A., & McDonell, D. M. (1992). Beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge about homelessness: a survey of the general public. American Journal of Community Psychology, 20(1), 53–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Turner, R. N., & Crisp, R. J. (2010). Imagining intergroup contact reduces implicit prejudice. The British journal of social psychology/the British Psychological Society, 49(Pt 1), 129–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Turner, R. N., Crisp, R. J., & Lambert, E. (2007). Imagining intergroup contact can improve intergroup attitudes. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 10(4), 427–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Tybur, J. M., Frankenhuis, W. E., & Pollet, T. V. (2014). Behavioral immune system methods: surveying the present to shape the future. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 8(4), 274–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Tybur, J. M., Lieberman, D., & Griskevicius, V. (2009). Microbes, mating, and morality: individual differences in three functional domains of disgust. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(1), 103–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Tybur, J. M., Lieberman, D., Kurzban, R., & DeScioli, P. (2013). Disgust: evolved function and structure. Psychological Review, 120(1), 65–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Tybur, J. M., et al. (2010). Extending the the behavioral immune system to political psychology: are political conservatism and disgust sensitivity really related? Evolutionary psychology : an international journal of evolutionary approaches to psychology and behavior, 8(4), 599–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Weinberg, J. D., Freese, J., & McElhattan, D. (2014). Comparing data characteristics and results of an online factorial survey between a population-based and crowdsource-recruited sample. Sociological Science, 1, 292–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Wester, J., et al. (2015). Psychological and social factors associated with wastewater reuse emotional discomfort. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 42, 16–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceBoston UniversityBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations