Aims and Central Research Question
We aim to understand how EU citizens form preferences towards redistribution among member states. European publics have been very divided about issues such as budgetary discipline, the costs of assisting other EU member states, and a deepening of the fiscal Union. We hypothesize that opinions on such issues depend heavily on an individual’s perception of economic fundamentals. We will run a compact cross-national survey experiment, in which randomized information treatments are used to change these perceptions – an approach from behavioural economics and psychology. This will allow us to inform the theoretical debate and generate the first descriptive evidence on mass beliefs about inequality in the EU.
We start from the expectation that citizens’ perceptions of relative income are biased. Randomized information given in a survey experiment corrects these biases, changing redistributive preferences. With our approach, we address a core challenge of contemporary EU politics and are able to bridge interests and insights from comparative and international politics, social psychology, and economics. Moreover, we combine in-house expertise in surveys and data collection with purchased access to large-scale online panels. We expect this aspect to be a major contribution to the Clusters’ Methods Hub and its aim of developing innovative research designs.
The research project is centered around an original cross-national survey in 13 EU member states, combining a large share of the Union’s total population with a large variance in per capita GDP: Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, and Bulgaria. Respondents locate themselves and their member states in the European income distribution, after which they receive randomized objective information about their and their countries’ relative positionings. We expect this information to induce changes amongst respondents with ill-informed prior beliefs – an indirect manipulation unveiling the impacts of ego- and sociotropic concerns.