Societies vary in their levels of social inequality and in the degree of popular support for policies that reduce disparities within them. Survey research in Texas, where levels of disparity in health and medical care are relatively high, studied how psychological mechanisms of moral disengagement relate to public support for expanding access to government-subsidized health care. Telephone interviews (N = 1,063) measured agreement with statements expressing tendencies to minimize the effects of inequality, blame its victims and morally justify limits on government help. The interviews also assessed support for general and specific policies to reduce inequality, e.g., through state-subsidized health care for lower income groups, as well as political party affiliation, ideological orientation, gender, age, education and income. Agreement with beliefs expressing moral disengagement was associated with opposition to governmental policies to reduce inequality in children’s health care. Beliefs that justify the withholding of government assistance, blame the victims of societal inequality, and minimize perceptions of their suffering were strongly related to variation between and within groups in support for governmental action to reduce inequality.
Moral disengagement Health disparity Social inequality Symbolic racism Health policy Texas