Confession time: I'm one of those left-wingers Tom Perkins warned you about, constantly kristallnachting the rich. But if I strike it rich tomorrow? I'll probably join the 1 percent and start kristallnachting the poor instead.
How do I know this? Science: The richer people are, the more they tend to vote for right-wing politicians and oppose wealth-sharing policies like social welfare and tax hikes for the rich, according to a study of thousands of U.K. lottery winners by Nattavudh Powdthavee of the London School of Economics and Andrew J. Oswald of the University of Warwick.
"Money apparently makes people more right-wing," wrote the authors.
The more money people win in the lottery, the more right-wing they become, according to the study. That includes many people who previously voted for left-wing politicians. (See the chart below for evidence of this.) And the more they win, the more likely they are to believe that "ordinary people 'already get a fair share of society's wealth.'" (Story continues after chart.)
The chart shows that nearly 18 percent of people who won 500 pounds or more in the U.K. lottery switched from left-wingers (or non-wingers) into right-wingers after winning.
Many right-wingers will try to convince you their beliefs are based on a sober moral calculus that has nothing to do with base selfishness (unless they're big Ayn Rand fans, that is). They claim to have genuine concern for the poor, but think any sort of wealth redistribution is a terrible affront to justice or the Founding Fathers or Ayn Rand's ghost or whatever.
Many conservatives really are being honest about that -- after all, not all right-wingers are wealthy. And not all wealthy people are right-wingers.
But the lottery-winner study suggests that, for at least some people, beliefs in such conservative policies as tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor are probably based mainly on the morality of "I've got mine, sucker."
"In the voting booth, monetary self-interest casts a long shadow, despite people's protestations that there are intellectual reasons for voting for low tax rates," Oswald told Phys.org.
The study confirms a string of other studies showing that right-wing tendencies and a lack of empathy about the poor are correlated with wealth and power. But those studies didn't exactly address the question of whether wealth caused people to change their attitudes about the poor. The lottery-winner study is one of the first to do so. It suggests that money really does change people.