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Does providing information about police shootings influence policing reform preferences? We conducted an online survey experiment in 2021 among approximately 2,600 residents of 10 large US cities. It incorporated original data we collected on police shootings of civilians. After respondents estimated the number of police shootings in their cities in 2020, we randomized subjects into three treatment groups and a control group. Treatments included some form of factual information about the police shootings in respondents’ cities (e.g., the actual total number). Afterward, respondents were asked their opinions about five policing reform proposals. Police shooting statistics did not move policing reform preferences. Support for policing reforms is primarily associated with partisanship and ideology, coupled with race. Our findings illuminate key sources of policing reform preferences among the public and reveal potential limits of information-driven, numeric-based initiatives to influence policing in the US.
Evidence suggests that well-funded, professional legislatures more effectively provide constituents with their preferred policies and may improve social welfare. Yet, legislative resources across state legislatures have stagnated or dwindled at least in part due to public antagonism toward increasing representatives’ salaries. We argue that one reason voters oppose legislative resources, like salary and staff, is that they are unaware of the potential benefits. Employing a pre-registered survey experiment with a pre–post design, we find that subjects respond positively to potential social welfare benefits of professionalization, increasing support for greater resources. We also find that individuals identifying with the legislative majority party respond positively to potential responsiveness benefits and that out-partisans do not respond negatively to potential responsiveness costs. In a separate survey of political elites, we find similar patterns. These results suggest that a key barrier to increasing legislative professionalism – anticipated public backlash – may not be insurmountable. The findings also highlight a challenge of institutional choice: beliefs that representatives are unresponsive or ineffective lead to governing institutions that may ensure these outcomes.
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