Seeing the poor cuts support for a tax on the rich
Visual reminders of poverty do not make make people more sympathetic to the poor.
"Sands posits a few plausible explanations for this study’s findings. She suggests that individuals may be adjusting their perceptions of their own affluence when confronted with someone who looks “poor.” This may cause them to over-identify with the millionaires on whom the wealth tax would be levied. The presence of a “poor” person might also reinforce participants’ belief that their own wealth is earned, and that if someone is poor then their poverty is similarly earned—this is known as the “just world belief,” and is a common effect seen in sociological studies.
Overall, this study provides insights into how people’s opinions about wealth and poverty may be influenced by the visual cues that surround them. It may be surprising to some that seeing a poor person doesn’t induce sympathetic feelings, but instead does the opposite. This finding leaves one important question lingering: if encountering poor people is not an effective way to trigger sympathy and nudge people towards supporting the poor, what will?"
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