The Economic Origins of Policy Preferences
62 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2017 Last revised: 24 Feb 2019
Date Written: September 1, 2017
The economic effects of policy options help explain why individuals support some reforms while they oppose others. However, disentangling the egoistic and sociotropic origins of voter preferences has proven difficult. We conduct two conjoint survey experiments on 5,000 Americans that detail how a reform affects one's personal income, the average income in the country, and different income groups. The results suggest that the effects of personal income changes on reform support are about twice the size of changes in a country's income average. Voters specifically care about how reforms impact the poor and this pro-social concern does neither depend on their own income nor on how a policy will affect them personally. We find that these patterns characterize how voters evaluate the income effects of generic economic policies, health care reforms, trade policy decisions, and the policy platforms of candidates running for office.
Keywords: Redistribution, Economic Policy, Individual Preferences, Self-Interest, Sociotropic Concerns, Altruism, Reforms, Survey Experiment, Conjoint Design
JEL Classification: D03, D6, C83, C90
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation