Do Means of Program Delivery and Distributional Consequences Affect Policy Support? Experimental Evidence About the Sources of Citizens’ Policy Opinions
Recent scholarship argues that citizens’ support for specific government programs in the United States is affected by the means through which benefits are delivered as well as the distributional consequences of these policies. In this paper, we extend this literature in two ways through a series of novel survey experiments, deployed on a nationally representative sample. First, we directly examine differences in public support for prospective government spending when manipulating the mode of delivery. Second, we examine whether information about the distributional consequences of two existing government programs affects their popularity. We find that citizens have a preference for indirect spending that is independent of the distributional consequences of a given policy and identify mechanisms that may explain this view. Furthermore, we find little evidence that highlighting the regressive effects of current government programs significantly reduces the demand for their policy benefits. Our findings have implications for understanding the political calculus of policy design and the potential for public persuasion.
KeywordsGovernment spending Public opinion Policy design
We thank Sarah Anzia, Christopher Berry, Natália S. Bueno, Alan Gerber, Jacob Hacker, John Henderson, Reuben Kline, Nolan McCarty, Patrick Tucker, Ebonya Washington, the three anonymous reviewers of this article and seminar participants at Yale University, the 2018 Emory University Conference on Institutions and Law Making, the 2018 New York University CESS Experimental Political Science Conference, and the 2017 American Political Science Association annual meeting for helpful comments and advice.
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