Of all the objectives assigned to the welfare state, economic redistribution is a crucial, and sensitive, one. Especially during election times, the topic of taxes and inequality becomes a highly debated subject. Still, if our redistribution preferences as voters are crucial for policy formulation, whence do they arise? Are we really well-informed voters, grounding decisions on truth, or do perception biases also play a role in our political choices? To find out, we teamed up with the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI) and designed a unique cross-country study. Carried out online as a randomized survey experiment in Brazil, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, it explored citizens’ perception of economic disparities, policy preferences, and responsiveness to new information on the matter.
Our Main Findings in Short:
- Across all sample countries, a majority of the population experiences difficulties in correctly estimating its position within the income distribution.
- Except for Brazilians, respondents on average perceive themselves as relatively poorer than they truly are.
- On top of this, individuals in all countries tend to overestimate (sometimes significantly) the domestic unemployment rate.
- Participants reporting a lower income see themselves as relatively richer than they actually are, while those reporting a higher income believe they are lower on the income scale than in reality.
- Our findings suggest that providing people with additional information on income inequality creates a convergence in redistribution preferences across all sample countries.