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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.
Why do people's preferences towards trade liberalization fluctuate? And why do we observe the eventual return of public support towards free trade? The traditional literature in international political economy has typically calculated individuals' preferences based on their comparative advantage as income-earners, which arises from their specific or general skill level or employment status. What needs to be taken into account, however, is that their economic preferences are constructed based upon their intertwined identities as both income-earners and consumers. We designed and conducted an experiment in Japan (2015) that would impartially elicit answers regarding respondents' daily consumption patterns or (and) employment concerns rather than deliberately or artificially informing them of the potential benefits or harms of trade liberalization. The results display that consumer priming offsets negative impacts arising from employment priming. The consumer effect reduces individuals' concerns on income level or employment when they are exposed to consumer and employment primings simultaneously. Furthermore, our subgroup analyses reveal that the consumer effect remains even among those experiencing economic fragility such as low income or job insecurity. This suggests that potential losers have incentives to support free trade by appreciating consumer benefits.
What motivates property owners to pay taxes in places where state enforcement is weak? Using an online experiment among property owners in Lagos, Nigeria, we evaluate the effectiveness of different appeals at increasing respondents’ tax morale—willingness to pay taxes absent enforcement—and attitudes about government enforcement of tax collection. Respondents were randomly assigned to read either a vignette emphasizing the role of property tax revenues in contributing to economic growth and increased property values or one highlighting that tax revenues are used for public goods and services benefiting all residents. The growth and property values message made respondents significantly more favorable toward enforcement of tax collection, but there was no difference in willingness to pay between the two conditions.
Despite considerable progress, inequality between countries remains at staggering levels. However, we know surprisingly little about demand for international redistribution in the Global South. This is unfortunate as it hinders our understanding of the pressures governments experience to cooperate internationally. Therefore, this paper studies perceptions of international inequality and attitudes toward international aid, an important instrument for redistribution, in Kenya, a major recipient of aid. It features an SMS-based survey experiment, in which respondents are treated with information about international income differences. It is found that most respondents underestimate these differences and that providing accurate information lowers inequality acceptance. However, this does not translate into demand for aid. The findings question often-made assumptions about the popularity of aid and call for further investigation of other internationally redistributive policies.
Discussions of terrorism assume actual or threatened violence, but the term is regularly used to delegitimize rivals' nonviolent actions. Yet do ordinary citizens accept descriptions of nonviolence as terrorism? Using a preregistered survey-experiment in Israel, a salient conflictual context with diverse repertoires of contention, we find that audiences rate adversary nonviolence close to terrorism, consider it illegitimate, and justify its forceful repression. These perceptions vary by the action's threatened harm, its salience, and respondents' ideology. Explicitly labeling nonviolence as terrorism, moreover, particularly sways middle-of-the-road centrists. These relationships replicate in a lower-salience conflict, albeit with milder absolute judgments, indicating generalizability. Hence, popular perceptions of terrorism are more fluid and manipulable than assumed, potentially undermining the positive effects associated with nonviolent campaigns.
This paper proposes a framework of immigrant acceptance that accounts for both group-level and individual-level characteristics and conducts a novel test of the cultural threat hypothesis. Immigrants’ individual traits are conceptualized as secondary to their identity-based claims. The empirical strategy leverages a set of survey experiments conducted in the extreme rentier state of Qatar, where naturalization poses tangible negative financial consequences for citizens by expanding the pool of government welfare beneficiaries. Findings demonstrate that citizens are willing to share citizenship with a narrow ethnic in-group while individual cultural and economic attributes are lower-order determinants influencing economically vulnerable citizens. Importantly, answers to direct survey measures are at odds with these findings, demonstrating their susceptibility to social desirability bias.
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.
In this paper, we provide an empirical test for the theoretical claim that ambiguous nuclear threats create a “commitment trap” for American leaders: when deterrence fails, supposedly they are more likely to order the use of nuclear weapons to avoid domestic audience costs for backing down. We designed an original survey experiment and fielded it to a sample of 1,000 U.S. citizens. We found no evidence of a commitment trap when ambiguous nuclear threats are made. Unlike explicit threats, ambiguous ones did not generate domestic disapproval when the leader backed down; the decision to employ nuclear weapons led to more public backlash for the leader than being caught bluffing; and the threats did not influence public preference for nuclear use across our scenarios. Our findings contribute to the scholarly literature on nuclear crisis bargaining and policy debates over the future of US declaratory policy.
Experiments on the responsiveness of elected officials highlight the tension between the freedom to carry out research and the right of subjects to be treated with respect. Controversy emerges from the power of politicians to block or object to experimental designs using identity deception. One way to resolve this conundrum is to consult citizens who, as constituents of politicians, have an interest in promoting the accountability of elected representatives. Building on the work of Desposato and Naurin and Öhberg, this survey experiment presented research designs to UK citizens for their evaluation. The findings show that citizens strongly approve of experimental research on Members of Parliament (MPs) and are glad to see their representatives participate. There are no differences in support whether designs use identity deception, debriefing, confederates or pre-agreement from MPs. Linked to high interest in politics, more citizens are glad their MPs participate in studies using identity deception than those deploying confederates.
The Japanese public has been assumed to possess a deeply ingrained aversion toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons. We employ a survey experiment to ascertain whether this aversion is unconditional or may erode in the face of hypothetical deterioration in Japan's security situation, and in particular a hypothetical withdrawal of the US security-nuclear umbrella, increased North Korean nuclear weapons testing activities, and movement by South Korea toward the attainment of a nuclear arsenal. We find that the Japanese nuclear aversion may come under stress in the face of such developments. Additionally, we find that the elasticity of Japanese attitudes with respect to the nuclear option in the face of external security deterioration may be associated with an important individual-level demographic characteristic, namely, gender.
This chapter explores the conditions under which global elites are influential in shaping citizens’ legitimacy beliefs toward global governance. It distinguishes between member governments, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations as three sets of global elites, evaluates whether these elites impact legitimacy beliefs through their communication, and identifies the conditions under which such communication is more successful. The chapter examines theoretical expectations comparatively across five prominent global or regional international organizations, including the European Union, International Monetary Fund, and United Nations. At the heart of the empirical investigation is a survey-embedded experiment in three countries (Germany, the UK, and the US). The analysis shows that communication by more credible elites (member governments and NGOs) has stronger effects on citizens’ legitimacy perceptions than communication by less credible elites (international organizations themselves).
This chapter focuses on domestic elites and examines the conditions under which political parties influence public perceptions of international organization legitimacy. While it is well-known that political parties are powerful communicators about domestic political matters, less is known about the effects of party cues on global political issues. The chapter explores this topic based on two survey experiments on party communication regarding two international organizations (North Atlantic Treaty Organization and United Nations). The experiments are embedded in surveys conducted in two countries (Germany and the US), which vary in the degree of political polarization. The chapter finds that party cues tend to shape legitimacy beliefs toward NATO and the UN in the highly polarized US setting, while few effects are detected in the less polarized German context.
This chapter examines whether and to what extent information about the procedures and performances of international organizations affects citizens legitimacy beliefs. It examines this issue comparatively across seven international organizations in different issue areas, including the African Union, European Union, United Nations Security Council, and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The survey is conducted in four countries in diverse world regions (Germany, the Philippines, South Africa, and the US). The analysis shows that information about both procedures and performances impact legitimacy beliefs. Moreover, citizens update their legitimacy beliefs in line with information about democracy, effectiveness, and fairness in global governance.
Experimentalists and survey researchers regularly measure the makeup and size of respondent personal discussion networks to learn about the social context in which citizens make political choices. When measuring these personal networks, some scholars use question prompts that specifically ask respondents about whom they discuss “politics” with, while others use more general prompts that ask respondents about whom they discuss “important matters” with. Prior research suggests that “political” discussion network prompts create self-reported networks that are substantively similar to “important matters” prompts. We conduct a nationally representative survey experiment to re-evaluate this question. Our results suggest that, although the size of networks generated by the two questions may be similar on average, the two questions generate different response distributions overall. In particular, respondents interested in politics report larger political discussion networks than general discussion networks, and respondents uninterested in politics report smaller political discussion networks than general discussion networks.
Misinformation about events surrounding the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic pose an existential threat to American democracy and public health. Public opinion surveys reveal that high percentages of Republicans indicate that they endorse some aspects of mistaken beliefs surrounding election fraud in the 2020 election. Still, understanding how to measure the endorsement of misperceptions is critical for understanding the threat at hand. Are high levels of mistaken beliefs genuinely held, or are they partially a function of expressive responding? I address this question through a set of survey experiments encouraging accuracy-oriented processing among the general public. Using well-powered surveys of Republicans and Independents, I find that treatments designed to encourage more accurate responses are ineffective in reducing the endorsement of partisan electoral and public health misperceptions and can in some cases even backfire. These findings suggest that support for these misperceptions is genuinely held.
Many policies target the economic and social consequences of regional inequality. This study experimentally investigates factors explaining the public degree of consent to financial transfers to disadvantaged regions. The main hypothesis of this study is that most people use the deservingness-heuristic not only to judge individuals but also to judge regions. We argue that people advocate interregional transfers based on perceived deservingness determined by recipient region’s need, lack of responsibility for the need, likelihood of reciprocity, and by a shared identity. To support this hypothesis, we conducted a factorial survey in Germany asking respondents to rate transfers to needy regions under different hypothetical conditions. We demonstrate, as predicted by the deservingness hypothesis, that consent to transfers to other regions is positively influenced by the extent of need and, in particular, past effort of the recipient region as well as by a shared identity. The results suggest that regional policies are particularly accepted when they target needs caused by factors beyond the control of recipient regions.
As implementers, public officials have historically enjoyed substantial influence in the public policy process, but little attention has been paid to the effect of psychological elements on their attitudes towards implementing policy instruments. The authors argue that from a behavioural public administration perspective, public officials’ attitudes towards implementing certain policy instruments are not rational, but instead biased. Using two survey experiments on 1,024 Chinese public officials, this study examines the cognitive and motivational bias of public officials’ attitudes towards implementing policy instruments. The findings indicate that when public officials are presented with risk information in a negative framing, they are more reluctant to implement indirect policy instruments than direct ones, and this phenomenon becomes more pronounced when their public interest orientation is activated, rather than their personal interest orientation. The findings contribute to the theoretical understanding of the effect of psychological biases on public officials’ attitudes towards policy implementation.
Environmental governance in many high-income democracies relies to some extent on self-regulation by the private sector. Yet, this policy mode is contested and proponents of top-down government regulation argue that voluntary corporate sustainability commitments remain shallow and rarely are more than greenwashing. I assess to what extent firms’ business conduct is subject to societal checks and balances, in particular, whether public support for regulation constitutes a control mechanism of corporate contributions to environmental goods. I rely on an original survey experiment (N = 2112) conducted with a representative sample of the Swiss voting population. The analysis shows that accusing firms of greenwashing reduces both citizens’ perceived effectiveness of self-regulation and perceived synergy of corporate profits and environmental protection. However, this attitudinal shift only translates into modest updates in respondents’ policy preferences. As a result, short-run shifts in public support for regulation are an unlikely societal control mechanism of business conduct.
Do the styles politicians use influence how voters evaluate them, and does this matter more for women than for men? Politicians regularly use anecdotal arguments, emotional appeals and aggressive attacks when communicating with voters. However, that women politicians have been branded as ‘nasty’, ‘inhuman’ and ‘unfeminine’ suggests that these strategies may come at a price for some. I report on a novel survey experiment assessing whether voters are biased in their perceptions and evaluations of politicians' communication styles. By manipulating politician gender and argument style, I assess, first, whether politicians incur backlash when violating gender-based stereotypes and, secondly, whether differential perceptions of the styles themselves explain this backlash. I find that style usage has important consequences for how voters evaluate politicians but that this is not gendered. These results have important implications, as they suggest that women politicians may not need to conform to stereotype-expected behaviours in order to receive positive voter evaluations.
Under what conditions do democratic actors such as political parties engage in, or facilitate, violence? What determines the strategy of violence that a party employs and how do these strategies in turn regulate the overall levels of violence in society? And, importantly, what are the effects of such violence on the prospects for democratic transition and consolidation? This chapter poses the questions that form the basis of empirical inquiry in the book. It introduces the main argument, which centers on the subnational political landscape of state coercive capacity, the elasticity of a party’s support base, and party organizational capacity. The intersection of these variables determines whether a party will engage in violence directly through party cadres, outsource it to violence specialists, form alliances with elite violence specialists, or abstain altogether. I outline how examining these outcomes, and the process by which they come to be, addresses several fundamental questions at the core of the study of political violence and democracy. I provide the scope conditions of my argument and explore alternative explanations for party violence. Finally, I describe my empirical approach, which involved multiple original surveys, new datasets of historical material, and extensive qualitative fieldwork.