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The “Horseless Headmen”: Consumer Groups and the Challenge of Political Mobilization

The “Horseless Headmen”: Consumer Groups and the Challenge of Political Mobilization

Chapter:
(p.109) 4 The “Horseless Headmen”: Consumer Groups and the Challenge of Political Mobilization
Source:
Democracy Declined
Author(s):
Mallory E. SoRelle
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226711829.003.0004

Chapter four, “Horseless Headmen”: Consumer Groups and the Challenge of Mobilization, considers why public interest groups struggled—both historically and during the 2008 global financial crisis—to mobilize angry borrowers toward political participation to demand lending reform. Drawing on archival records and interviews, the chapter argues that consumer groups face an uphill battle engaging borrowers in political action. Because Americans have learned from their experiences with financial regulations to emphasize personal and market responsibility in the use of credit, borrowers are less likely to believe that government should play a role in financial protection. As a result, consumer groups struggle to create resonant advocacy appeals that call for political action. The chapter then employs original experiments to explore whether alternative messaging strategies can overcome borrowers’ focus on personal responsibility to spark political engagement. It demonstrates that framing the issue of consumer financial protection in terms of the government’s responsibility to protect people’s economic security—a task on par with Social Security or tax breaks—can increase people’s willingness to take related political action.

Keywords:   public interest groups, 2008 global financial crisis, personal responsibility, framing, political participation, financial regulation, consumer financial protection, experiment, economic security

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