Working Papers

Working Paper


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Distributive Politics, Fairness, and the Allocation of Disaster Relief
with Massimo Mannino
First posted: April 2017

Abstract


How would citizens like public resources to be distributed and to what extent do policymakers’ allocation choices mirror those preferences? We investigate this question in the context of disaster relief and develop three theoretical arguments that relate to affectedness, need, and electoral ties. Using experimental data from a representative sample of American citizens we show that voters prefer allocations that reflect affectedness and need, but not electoral ties. We compare these patterns with observed relief aid distributions in the aftermath of natural disasters (1993-2008) in which federal authorities spent over $128 billion in total. Despite a notable degree of congruence between preferred and observed spending decisions, policymakers systematically allocate relief aid based on electoral considerations which conflicts with citizens’ preferences. These results shed light on which fairness norms guide individual preferences over public spending and the extent to which policymakers’ allocation decisions echo those views in democracies.

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Prepare or Respond? Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Disaster Policy Preferences
with Massimo Mannino

Abstract


The ability of democracies to solve pressing policy problems depends on the political will to back decades of continuous investment and reform. Under what conditions do citizens favor such long-term investment decisions over short-term policy responses? We investigate the origins of this tension by studying individual preferences for disaster policy. We distinguish between two types of explanations, knowledge about the economic impact of preparedness investment and information about its efficiency. Evidence based on data from two novel survey experiments administered to a representative sample of American citizens (N=2,618) suggests that both policy effectiveness and efficiency significantly increase support for preparedness investment. Improving voters’ awareness of the advantages of preparedness investment may help attenuate the tendency of policymakers to respond to short-term re-election concerns instead of implementing sustainable solutions to long-term policy challenges.

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Direct Democracy, Postal Voting, and the Composition of Turnout
with Lukas Schmid
First posted: April 2016

Abstract


Electoral reforms that decrease the costs of political participation promise to reduce class biases in civic engagement. Some worry that this could lower the quality of democracy as the less politically interested, knowledgeable, and educated may also vote more frequently. We exploit the sequential introduction of postal voting in Swiss cantons to analyze in detail how an exogenous decrease in voting costs affects the political and socio-demographic composition of turnout in direct legislation. We find that while postal voting mobilizes equally along many dimensions including individuals’ political knowledge, employment status, and religious denomination, it more strongly activates partisans of left and centrist parties, less politically interested individuals, and high earners. However, these changes have only limited effects on the overall turnout composition and are unlikely to affect referendum outcomes. Our results alleviate concerns about the negative side effects of postal voting on the quality of collective choice in large electorates.

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Egoistic and Sociotropic Policy Preferences
with Roman Liesch
First posted: February 2017

Abstract


Economic considerations help explain why individuals support some reforms, candidates, and parties while they oppose others. Previous work suggests that these preferences have both egoistic and sociotropic roots. We explore the relative importance of these factors and argue that sociotropic considerations reflect altruistic concerns for the poor. We design an experiment that details how a reform affects one’s personal income, the average income in the country, and earnings of other individuals belonging to different income groups. This allows us to begin disentangling the egoistic and sociotropic origins of policy preferences. The results from a population-based sample of American citizens suggest that personal income changes are about twice as important as average US income changes. However, average income changes remain a significant driver of reform support irrespective of whether an individual personally gains or loses. This sensitivity seems to reflect pro-social concerns about the welfare of those that are worst off.

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The Ideological Basis of the Grexit Debate
with Kirk Bansak, Jens Hainmueller, and Yotam Margalit
First posted: January 2016

Abstract


What explains the sharp divide among European publics over the Grexit? We explore this question using original surveys from four of the largest European economies. We contend that differences in citizens’ own economic interests, as well as the often-mentioned chasm between supporters of mainstream and extremist parties, provide little insight into the public divide over the Grexit. Instead, we show that the key factor is the split between the left and right. We then develop and test a set of theoretical explanations for this cleavage. We find that the left-right divide over the Grexit is not driven by differences in attitudes on redistribution, levels of empathy, or general EU support. Instead, we find that the primary mechanism is that left and right voters have different expectations about the impact of a Grexit on the European economy as a whole. These expectations largely reflect differences in core beliefs about the promise of a free-market approach.

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Dynamic Policy Problems, Time Preferences, and Risk Aversion
with Kenneth F. Scheve

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