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Individuals, Institutions, and Public Preferences over Public Finance


  • Hansen, John Mark


This study examines public preferences over deficits, taxes, and spending. Using responses to public opinion questions designed for the purpose, the article assesses the state of preferences as expressed by individuals and as represented in government. One section examines the characteristics of individual preferences—their completeness, consistency, and coherence. Public opinion is remarkably well structured and overwhelmingly partial to the policy status quo. A second section explores the properties of mass preferences as they are aggregated by several different kinds of institutional voting rules. Institutions matter, at least to a point: Consistent institutional differences over federal budget policy trace directly to the diverse means by which institutions represent the public's positions. The conclusion assesses the meaning and import of the public's resistance to budget policy change.

Suggested Citation

  • Hansen, John Mark, 1998. "Individuals, Institutions, and Public Preferences over Public Finance," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 92(3), pages 513-531, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:92:y:1998:i:03:p:513-531_21

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    Cited by:

    1. Tavares, Jose, 2004. "Does right or left matter? Cabinets, credibility and fiscal adjustments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2447-2468, December.
    2. Bernd Hayo & Florian Neumeier, 2019. "Public Preferences for Government Spending Priorities: Survey Evidence from Germany," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 20(4), pages 1-37, November.
    3. Cason, Timothy N. & Mui, Vai-Lam, 2005. "Uncertainty and resistance to reform in laboratory participation games," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 708-737, September.
    4. Jaroslaw Kantorowicz, 2014. "Judges as Fiscal Activists: Can Constitutional Review Shape Public Finance?," DANUBE: Law and Economics Review, European Association Comenius - EACO, issue 2, pages 79-104, June.
    5. Abbie Rogers & Jonelle Cleland, 2010. "Comparing Scientist and Public Preferences for Conserving Environmental Systems: A Case of the Kimberley's Tropical Waterways and Wetlands," Environmental Economics Research Hub Research Reports 1080, Environmental Economics Research Hub, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    6. Andrew Whitford, 2013. "Dynamics of partisan representation the American south, 1898–2010," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 47(3), pages 1531-1543, April.
    7. Douglas D. Roscoe, 2014. "Yes, Raise My Taxes: Property Tax Cap Override Elections," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 95(1), pages 145-164, March.
    8. Achim Goerres & Katrin Prinzen, 2012. "Can We Improve the Measurement of Attitudes Towards the Welfare State? A Constructive Critique of Survey Instruments with Evidence from Focus Groups," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 109(3), pages 515-534, December.

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