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How does knowledge on societal ageing affect attitudes towards welfare state reform? Evidence from a survey experiment in Germany, Spain and the United States

7th December 2017 3pm, University of Southampton

Jonas Radl, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

A growing literature shows that popular attitudes towards public policy reforms are sensitive to issue knowledge. It is widely believed that well-informed people tend to prefer certain policy reforms over other ones. We apply these general insights of public opinion research to the analysis of attitudes towards welfare reform in the wake of population ageing. Our study draws on new experimental evidence regarding three advanced democracies - Germany, Spain and United States. Based on newly conducted online surveys of the general population and a quasi-experimental approach, we examine how knowledge is related to the support for concrete public policy reforms. Three treatments are tested: 1) information on the extent population ageing; 2) information on the financial sustainability of pension systems; 3) information on the social sustainability of pension systems. The first objective of the project is to ascertain whether these different types of information shape attitudes toward social spending, and, in that case, which one has the strongest effect. The second objective is to discover what individual characteristics (age, gender, education, prior knowledge) moderate the information effect on policy preferences. The project has important implications for the dynamics of public discourse on welfare reform.