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