Public Choice

, Volume 180, Issue 1–2, pp 27–42 | Cite as

Do the poor want to be regulated? Public opinion surveys on regulation in the United States, 1981–2002

  • Jeremy HorpedahlEmail author


Recent research has demonstrated that public regulation of private economic activity often has regressive effects. Despite those effects, poorer Americans show strong support for a variety of regulations in public opinion surveys. I use the database of survey questions from 1981 to 2002, assembled by Martin Gilens, to identify 85 questions that deal with economic regulation. Poorer Americans support regulation on most issues, and they often favor regulatory intervention more than Americans at the median or upper income levels. I also use similar questions from surveys of economists to suggest the possibility of rational irrationality on the part of low-income Americans when they disagree with economists.


Regulation Regressive effects Rational irrationality Public opinion 

JEL Classification

D70 H40 I18 K20 L51 



The author thanks Diana Thomas, Harry David, two anonymous referees and participants in a workshop at Creighton University for helpful comments. An early version of this paper was presented at the 2017 annual meeting of the Public Choice Society.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Central ArkansasConwayUSA

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