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Political support for reforms of the pension system: two experiments*


We conduct two randomized control trials designed to understand the role of information and priming on the willingness to retrench the pension system. The first entails a survey to a sample of Portuguese voters, who are randomly presented with a text providing factual information about the public pension system. The second surveys a sample of Portuguese University students, randomly presented with an alternative order of questions. We show that more literacy on the pension system has a positive impact on the individual willingness to support reforms. Given that public opinion is usually seen as an important deterrent of effective action by politicians and that the level of voters’ literacy can be influenced by policy action, this analysis may provide useful insights to policy makers faced with the challenge of reforming existent pension systems. Our analysis also suggests that priming effects should not be ignored, given their impact in individuals in the extremes of the political spectrum.

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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Ministry of Finance or of Nova School of Business and Economics. Part of this research was conducted while the author was visiting the Centre of Research in Public Economics and Population Economics (CREPP), University of Liège (September 2012–January 2013) and Toulouse School of Economics (February 2013–June 2013). The author would like to thank those that shared and replied to the questionnaires that are the basis of this research and to Nova Economics Club for testing an initial version of the survey. The paper benefited from comments of two anonymous referees, the participants of the Portuguese Economy Seminar Series of the Portuguese Ministry for the Economy (September 2015), the ISEG/ISCSP/ICS conference The welfare state in the age of austerity (May 2014) and the Nova SBE Informal Research Workshop (October 2013) and from useful discussions with Vincenzo Galasso, Pedro Magalhães and Susana Peralta. This research was partially funded by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (2012/2013).

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Journal of Pension Economics & Finance
  • ISSN: 1474-7472
  • EISSN: 1475-3022
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-pension-economics-and-finance
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