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Do Liberals Play Nice? The Effects of Party and Political Ideology in Public Goods and Trust Games

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Author Info

  • Lisa R. Anderson

    ()
    (Department of Economics, College of William and Mary)

  • Jennifer M. Mellor

    ()
    (Department of Economics, College of William and Mary)

  • Jeffrey Milyo

    ()
    (Department of Economics and Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri)

Abstract

A popular perception among the American electorate is that Democrats and liberals are more caring and kind-hearted than Republicans and conservatives. This stems in part from the consistent finding in opinion surveys that left-leaning individuals tend to support increased public spending on social programs. In this study, we put conventional wisdom to the test by examining differences in the behavior of liberal versus conservative subjects in two classic experimental settings: the public goods game and the bilateral trust game. First, we test whether Democrats or liberals are more likely to contribute to a group account when such actions are contrary to self-interest. Next, we test whether Democrats and liberals choose to trust strangers or to behave in a trustworthy fashion, despite monetary incentives to the contrary. To address the concern that liberals may not behave more compassionately in the artificially egalitarian setting of the laboratory, we induce inequality among subjects by manipulating the show-up fee paid to all participants. We find that despite conventional wisdom and survey evidence, there is no tendency for adherents of either major party to play nice, nor do self-described liberals have a greater tendency to make contributions in a public goods experiment. However, in keeping with conventional wisdom (but not necessarily national survey results), we find some evidence that self-described liberals behave in a more trusting and trustworthy manner.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, College of William and Mary in its series Working Papers with number 07.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: 30 Sep 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: Forthcoming in Advances in Applied Microeconomics, Vol. 13: Experimental and Behavioral Economics, John Morgan, ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier, Ltd., 2005.
Handle: RePEc:cwm:wpaper:7

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Keywords: public goods; experiment; political ideology;

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References

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  1. Chan, Kenneth S. & Mestelman, Stuart & Muller, R. Andrew, 2008. "Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher & Bernhard von Rosenbladt & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, . "A Nation-Wide Laboratory: Examining trust and trustworthiness by integrating behavioral experiments into representative surveys," IEW - Working Papers 141, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Stuart Mestelman & David Feeny, 1988. "Does ideology matter?: Anecdotal experimental evidence on the voluntary provision of public goods," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 57(3), pages 281-286, June.
  5. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
  6. Bruno Frey & Stephan Meier, 2003. "Are political economists selfish and indoctrinated? Evidence from a natural experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00242, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Jeffrey Milyo & Jennifer M. Mellor & Lisa Anderson, 2004. "Inequality, Group Cohesion, and Public Good Provision: An Experimental Analysis," Working Papers 0418, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 27 Dec 2004.
  8. Alesina, Alberto & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2002. "Who trusts others?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 207-234, August.
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Cited by:
  1. Dawes, Christopher T. & Johannesson, Magnus & Lindqvist, Erik & Loewen, Peter & Östling, Robert & Bonde, Marianne & Priks, Frida, 2012. "Generosity and Political Preferences," Working Paper Series 941, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.

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