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

  • Lisa Anderson
  • Jennifer Mellor
  • Jeffrey Milyo

Democrats and liberals are generally understood to be more caring and kind than Republicans and conservatives; for example, even conservative author and media personality Ben Wattenberg has acknowledged that "the word ‘conservative’ conjures up images of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, while ‘liberal’ brings to mind kindly Santa Claus." (PBS Think-Tank, 1995). This perception of Democrats and liberals as more other-regarding, while not universal, is pervasive enough that George W. Bush, while campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, adopted the moniker of a "compassionate conservative" to counter such stereotypes. But are left-leaning individuals really more generous and trusting? 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.

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Paper provided by Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago in its series Working Papers with number 0411.

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Date of creation: Jun 2004
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Handle: RePEc:har:wpaper:0411
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  1. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, 2003. "Are Political Economists Selfish and Indoctrinated? Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 41(3), pages 448-462, July.
  2. Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher & Bernhard von Rosenbladt & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2002. "A Nation-Wide Laboratory: Examining Trust and Trustworthiness by Integrating Behavioral Experiments into Representative Surveys," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 319, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  4. Kenneth S. Chan & Stuart Mestelman & R. Andrew Muller, 1998. "Voluntary Provision of Public Goods," McMaster Experimental Economics Laboratory Publications 1998-02, McMaster University.
  5. 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.
  6. Alesina, Alberto F & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2000. "Who Trusts Others?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2646, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Lisa R. Anderson & Jennifer M. Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2003. "Inequality, Group Cohesion, and Public Good Provision: An Experimental Analysis," Working Papers 0308, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  8. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
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