Information, Knowledge and Attitudes: An Evaluation of the Taxpayer Receipt
Forthcoming, Journal of Politics
39 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2016 Last revised: 24 Jan 2018
Date Written: January 17, 2018
To better understand the relationship between information and political knowledge, we evaluate an ambitious government transparency initiative: the nationwide dissemination of “taxpayer receipts,” or personalized, itemized accounts of government spending, by the UK government in Fall 2014. In coordination with the British tax authorities, we embedded a survey experiment in a nationally representative panel. We find that citizens became significantly more knowledgeable about government spending because of our encouragement to read their receipt. In contrast to previous lab-based studies that have documented knowledge increases, our finding depends on a field-based intervention. Yet even as citizens became more knowledgeable, we uncover no evidence that their attitudes toward government and redistribution changed concomitantly. While citizens are capable of acquiring and retaining complex new political information, their attitudes do not necessarily change as a result. Our results have implications for political knowledge, transparency policy and research on the relationship between knowledge and attitudes.
Keywords: Taxes, Political Knowledge, Public Opinion, Taxpayer Receipt
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