Collective action problems: Disentangling possible feedback loops between government policies and the public's value-change

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Eivind Hoff-Elimari
Anat Bardi
Simon Matti
Kristina Östman

Abstract

Solving collective action problems, such as poverty reduction or climate change, depends on interactions between governments' and voters' preferences regarding pro-social actions. This paper examines whether the overall direction of change in pro-social public policy precedes public value-change, rather than the other way around. We examine change in the public's pro-social values in six European countries, as measured by the European Social Survey (ESS) during 2002-2012. In these countries, we conducted an expert survey to rate governmental policy that expresses these values over the same period, thereby examining value-change in governmental policy. The chronological comparison of value-change of the public with that of respective governments suggests that changes in pro-social government policies may drive public value-change rather than vice versa. This complements previous studies focused on the opinion-policy connection. Possible political implications are discussed. The promising findings of this initial study point to the importance of conducting larger-scale future studies.

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