IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/wpa/wuwppe/0510004.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Were Bush Tax Cut Supporters “Simply Ignorant?” A Second Look at Conservatives and Liberals in “Homer Gets a Tax Cut”

Author

Listed:
  • Arthur Lupia

    (University of Michigan)

  • Adam S. Levine

    (University of Michigan)

  • Jesse O. Menning

    (University of Michigan)

  • Gisela Sin

    (University of Michigan)

Abstract

In a recent edition of Perspectives on Politics, Larry Bartels examines the high levels of support for tax cuts signed into law by President Bush in 2001. In so doing, he characterizes the opinions of “ordinary people” as being based on “simple-minded and sometimes misguided considerations of self interest” and concludes that “the strong plurality support for Bush’s tax cut...is entirely attributable to simple ignorance.” Our analysis of the same data reveals different results. We show that for a large and politically relevant class of respondents – people who describe themselves as “conservative” or “Republican” – increasing information levels increase support for the tax cuts to the extent that they have any affect at all. Indeed, using Bartels’ measure of political information, we show that the Republican respondents rated most informed supported the tax cuts at extraordinarily high levels (over 96%). For these citizens, Bartels’ claim that “better-informed respondents were much more likely to express negative views about the 2001 tax cut” is simply untrue. We then show that Bartels’ results depend on a very strong assumption about how information affects public opinion. He restricts all respondents -- whether liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat – to respond to increasing information levels in identical ways. In other words, he assumes that if more information about the tax cut makes liberals less likely to support it, then conservatives must follow suit. This assumption is very presumptive about the policy and value trade- offs that different people should make. Our analysis, by contrast, allows people of different partisan or ideological identities to react to higher information levels in varying ways. This flexibility has many benefits, one of which is a direct test of Bartels’ restrictive assumption. We demonstrate that the assumption is untrue. Examined several ways, our findings suggest that much of the support for the tax cut was attributable to something other than “simple ignorance.” Bartels’ approach is based on a very strong presumption about how citizens should think and what they should think about. We advocate a different approach, one that takes questions of public policy seriously while respecting ideological and partisan differences in opinion and interest. Indeed, citizens have reasons for the opinions and interests they have. We may or may not agree with them. However, we, as social scientists, can contribute more by offering reliable explanations of these reasons than we can by judging them prematurely. By turning our attention to explaining differences of opinion, we can help to forge a stronger and more credible foundation for progress in meeting critical social needs.

Suggested Citation

  • Arthur Lupia & Adam S. Levine & Jesse O. Menning & Gisela Sin, 2005. "Were Bush Tax Cut Supporters “Simply Ignorant?” A Second Look at Conservatives and Liberals in “Homer Gets a Tax Cut”," Public Economics 0510004, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:0510004
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 25
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://econwpa.ub.uni-muenchen.de/econ-wp/pe/papers/0510/0510004.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Lupia, Arthur, 2006. "How Elitism Undermines the Study of Voter Competence," MPRA Paper 349, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Krupnikov, Yanna & Levine, Adam Seth & Lupia, Arthur & Prior, Markus, 2006. "Public Ignorance and Estate Tax Repeal: The Effect of Partisan Differences and Survey Incentives," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 59(3), pages 425-437, September.
    3. Mondak, Jeffery J., 1999. "Reconsidering the Measurement of Political Knowledge," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(1), pages 57-82, January.
    4. Brady, Henry E. & Sniderman, Paul M., 1985. "Attitude Attribution: A Group Basis for Political Reasoning," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 79(4), pages 1061-1078, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Adam Seth Levine & Reuben Kline, 2017. "A new approach for evaluating climate change communication," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 142(1), pages 301-309, May.
    2. Christian Bredemeier, 2014. "Imperfect information and the Meltzer-Richard hypothesis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(3), pages 561-576, June.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Baumberg, Ben, 2016. "Benefit `myths'? The accuracy and inaccuracy of public beliefs about the benefits system," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 103512, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Petr Špecián, 2017. "Ekonomická analýza referenda [Economic Analysis of a Referendum]," Politická ekonomie, Prague University of Economics and Business, vol. 2017(4), pages 460-475.
    3. Lupia, Arthur & Prior, Markus, 2005. "What Citizens Know Depends on How You Ask Them: Political Knowledge and Political Learning Skills," MPRA Paper 103, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 25 Sep 2006.
    4. Julio Rotemberg, 2009. "Attitude-dependent altruism, turnout and voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 140(1), pages 223-244, July.
    5. Brad R. Taylor, 2016. "Exit and the Epistemic Quality of Voice," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(2), pages 133-144, June.
    6. Brad R. Taylor, 2020. "The psychological foundations of rational ignorance: biased heuristics and decision costs," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 70-88, March.
    7. Friedrich Heinemann & Eckhard Janeba, 2011. "Viewing Tax Policy Through Party‐Colored Glasses: What German Politicians Believe," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 12(3), pages 286-311, August.
    8. Matthew Kahn, 2007. "Environmental disasters as risk regulation catalysts? The role of Bhopal, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez, Love Canal, and Three Mile Island in shaping U.S. environmental law," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 17-43, August.
    9. William J Berger & Adam Sales, 2020. "Testing epistemic democracy’s claims for majority rule," Politics, Philosophy & Economics, , vol. 19(1), pages 22-35, February.
    10. James Adams & Simon Weschle & Christopher Wlezien, 2021. "Elite Interactions and Voters’ Perceptions of Parties’ Policy Positions," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 65(1), pages 101-114, January.
    11. Tsuyoshi Hatori & Hayeong Jeong & Kiyoshi Kobayashi, 2014. "Regional learning and trust formation," Chapters, in: Charlie Karlsson & Börje Johansson & Kiyoshi Kobayashi & Roger R. Stough (ed.), Knowledge, Innovation and Space, chapter 8, pages 180-212, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    12. Mariano Torcal & Sergio Martini & Lluis Orriols, 2018. "Deciding about the unknown: The effect of party and ideological cues on forming opinions about the European Union," European Union Politics, , vol. 19(3), pages 502-523, September.
    13. Hope, David & Limberg, Julian & Weber, Nina Sophie, 2021. "Why Do (Some) Ordinary Americans Support Tax Cuts for the Rich? Evidence From a Randomized Survey Experiment," SocArXiv chk9b, Center for Open Science.
    14. Logan Dancey & Paul Goren, 2010. "Party Identification, Issue Attitudes, and the Dynamics of Political Debate," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 54(3), pages 686-699, July.
    15. Baber, Hasnan, 2020. "Intentions to participate in political crowdfunding- from the perspective of civic voluntarism model and theory of planned behavior," Technology in Society, Elsevier, vol. 63(C).
    16. Buckley, Peter J. & Cross, Adam & De Mattos, Claudio, 2015. "The principle of congruity in the analysis of international business cooperation," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 1048-1060.
    17. Paul Froese & F. Carson Mencken, 2009. "A U.S. Holy War? The Effects of Religion on Iraq War Policy Attitudes," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(1), pages 103-116, March.
    18. Heinemann, Friedrich & Janeba, Eckhard, 2007. "The Globalization of Tax Policy: What German Politicians Believe," ZEW Discussion Papers 07-057, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    19. Kevin Arceneaux & Robin Kolodny, 2009. "Educating the Least Informed: Group Endorsements in a Grassroots Campaign," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 53(4), pages 755-770, October.
    20. John Lott & Kevin Hassett, 2014. "Is newspaper coverage of economic events politically biased?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 160(1), pages 65-108, July.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    public opinion; tax policy; incomplete information; welfare economics;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • H - Public Economics

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:0510004. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://econwpa.ub.uni-muenchen.de .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: EconWPA (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://econwpa.ub.uni-muenchen.de .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.