Matthew Loveless and Chiara Binelli

Abstract: For the first time, the British Election Study internet panel replicated questions from the American National Election Studies about citizens’ perceptions of national-level income inequality. Using this unique data opportunity, we draw together the literature on macro-economic perceptions to build a comprehensive model to compare the origins of citizens’ perceptions –and misperceptions -of national-level income inequality in each country. Despite expected performances by several of the individual-level determinants, perceptions appear to be more highly politicized in the UK than the US. That is, they are highly correlated with ideology, strong partisan identification, and specific media choices. Also in the UK, we find (negative) normative orientations to inequality to be a powerful predictor of misperceptions. By contrast, in the US, perceptions of national-level income inequality appear to rely more heavily on individuals’ political and economic performance evaluations and much less so on elite or media cues.

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