Working Papers

The Inequality of Politics: Social Class Rank and Political Participation


Perceived lower rank in the social class hierarchy reflects an individual’s relative lack of perceived social and economic worth in society. In the current study we tested the predictions that lower perceptions of social class rank elicit both reduced political participation and lower political self-efficacy. Study 1 found that students with lower perceived social class were less likely to seek information about student government. Study 2 found that perceptions of political self-efficacy accounted for the relationship between perceived social class rank and political participation. Study 3 established causal associations between perceived social class and political participation—a momentary manipulation of elevated perceived social class increased political efficacy and intentions to participate in politics. In Study 4, affirming the self reduced social class disparities in both perceived political participation and efficacy. Throughout the studies, perceptions of social class were consistently related to political participation, and these associations occurred after accounting for political ideology and objective indicators of social class. Discussion focused on the understudied psychological barriers that perpetuate voter inequality in society.