Ideology, Learning, and Policy Diffusion: Experimental Evidence
42 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2014
Date Written: February 10, 2014
We introduce experimental research design to the study of policy diffusion in order to better understand the role of political ideology in policymakers’ willingness to learn from one another’s experiences. Our two experiments, embedded in national surveys of U.S. municipal officials, expose local policymakers to vignettes describing the zoning and home foreclosure policies of other cities, and offer an opportunity to learn more. We find that: (1) policymakers who are ideologically predisposed against the described policy are relatively unwilling to learn from others, but (2) such ideological biases can be overcome with an emphasis on the policy’s success or on its adoption by co-partisans in other communities. We also find, however, a similar partisan-based bias among traditional ideological supporters. Thus partisanship does not solely broaden patterns of learning and diffusion, but can also undermine such learning precisely where it is most likely to occur absent any partisan cue. We finish with a discussion on the vast array of new opportunities that an experimental approach offers scholars of policy diffusion.
Keywords: ideology, learning, diffusion, experiments
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