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Does Trust in Government Increase Support for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Survey Experiments

  • KYLE PEYTON (a1)

Abstract

Why have decades of high and rising inequality in the United States not increased public support for redistribution? An established theory in political science holds that Americans’ distrust of government decreases their support for redistribution, but empirical support draws primarily on regression analyses of national surveys. I discuss the untestable assumptions required for identification with regression modeling and propose an alternative design that uses randomized experiments about political corruption to identify the effect of trust in government on support for redistribution under weaker assumptions. I apply this to three survey experiments and estimate the effects that large, experimentally induced increases in political trust have on support for redistribution. Contrary to theoretical predictions, estimated effects are substantively negligible, statistically indistinguishable from zero, and comparable to estimates from two placebo experiments. I discuss implications for theory building about causes of support for redistribution in an era of rising inequality and eroding confidence in government.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

*Kyle Peyton, Postdoctoral Fellow in Law and Social Science, The Justice Collaboratory, Yale Law School, kyle.peyton@yale.edu.

Footnotes

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Previous versions of this manuscript were presented and benefited from feedback in the Department of Political Science and Institution for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS) at Yale. Thanks to Peter Aronow, Vivek Ashok, Alex Coppock, Matthew Graham, Jacob Hacker, Gregory Huber, Hakeem Jefferson, Adam Levine, Ro'ee Levy, Matthew Masten, Guatam Nair, Molly Offer-Westort, Fredrik Sävje, Michael Sierra-Arévalo, Francesco Trebbi, Ian Turner, and Jennifer Wu for helpful comments and suggestions. Thanks to Benjamin Lauderdale and three anonymous reviewers for constructive feedback during the review process. Thanks to Nicholas Faulkner, Aaron Martin and Raymond Orr for collaborating on data collection. Research support was provided by ISPS and the University of Melbourne. Experiments 1, 2, and 4 were approved by the University of Melbourne Human Ethics Committee; Experiments 3 and 5 were approved by the Yale University Institutional Review Board. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/L3NT6P.

Footnotes

References

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Does Trust in Government Increase Support for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Survey Experiments

  • KYLE PEYTON (a1)

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