It’s no coincidence that within the first five minutes of meeting a person the question of “what do you do” comes up. A person’s livelihood is a fundamental aspect of who they are and a source of pride that no one can take away. Even those with different livelihoods throughout their lives will identify with with whatever previous positions they held. How could we not considering the immense time involved – a third of our time consumed day after day, year after year? Who could dedicate that amount of time to something they didn’t consider fundamental to who they were or believe in?
Given that, it is easy to see how someone’s political judgment can be compromised by policies that undermine, counter, or condemn their livelihood. This bias is so common and understandable it would most likely be categorized as common sense however it gets surprisingly little acknowledgement. I can’t say why that is but right now I believe the explanation is similar to most things political: the democrats don’t because they’re incompetent and the republicans don’t because it would be to their detriment.
The best example of this is climate change. Imagine a second or third generation coal miner 15 years into their career being pulled into a climate change debate. Do you think they are going to entertain the thought that their lineage and livelihood have actually been harmful to the planet? Will they decide to derail their life because some scientist warned of something being two degrees warmer? Will they pour over hundreds of pages of data to form an objective opinion? Of course not. Now think of the number of people involved in fossil fuels – not only miners but every supporting industry and business. Would you expect any different from the repair shop that existing solely to repair mining equipment?
This example can be found millions of times across the country and so go millions of votes towards a completely unsurprising bias. You can’t afford to take chances in our two party representative democracy, particularly when it comes to your livelihood.
To be clear I don’t think voting in support of one’s livelihood against opposition is inherently an issue, in fact it’s likely just as good a way as any to quantify issues. However it is important to acknowledge the bias and acknowledge the tradeoffs involved and not deny reality.