The Role of Group Interest, Identity, and Stigma in Determining Mental Health Policy Preferences
McSween, Jean L.
Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 2002 October; 27(5): 773-800
Public attitudes toward mental health present an interesting puzzle. While mental health is one aspect of general health and well-being, it receives less support for government spending increases than does health care. One explanation lies with the stigma that is attached to mental illness. This stigma produces more negative attitudes on policy issues related to persons with mental illness such as government spending for mental health. However, group identification, as defined by personal experience or a family member who has experienced a mental illness, may have a strong effect on these attitudes. Using data from the 1996 General Social Survey's module on mental health. I examine this and other hypotheses and find evidence that group identification increases the likelihood of increased support for government spending for mental health. These robust findings exist even in quantitative models, which include politically relevant variables and measure identification with mental illness in two different ways. These findings suggest that mental health is policy for the few because those most supportive of government spending increases are persons who share the common identity of experiencing mental illness.
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