Session Summary

People’s understanding of economic policies is shaped by different factors (e.g perceptions, attitudes, knowledge)

In general, people are worried about structural problems (e.g climate change, lack of social mobility, and inequality of opportunity). There is an increasing pressure for governments to act urgently to solve these challenges.  

Nonetheless, concerns and prior knowledge regarding an issue do not translate to policy inclination and intervention. In reality, people tend to have different views on “hard” facts and different favoured solutions.  

People with different pollical affiliations have very different views on redistribution policies. For instance, left-wing people who are most pessimistic about mobility are supportive towards more redistributive policies whereas right-wing people view the government “as part of the problem, rather than the solution”. 

Among the factors that shape people’s receptiveness towards redistributive policies, people care most about who wins or losses, and “fairness”. 

Fairness is in the eye of the beholder and perceived winners and losers vary across people. Factors which influence how “fair” people view redistribution policies include (1) perceptions of social mobility and equality of opportunity, (2) views about immigrants, and (3) perceptions of one’s own stand relative to others.  

People are more accepting of inequalities conditional on factors less relevant to income (e.g., municipality, age, gender) than inequalities conditional on factors more relevant to income (e.g., education, sector, firm). Inequalities between co-workers within the same firm or sector and with similar education background is considered most unfair.  

Concerns on “fairness” also affect people’s receptiveness towards climate change policies and trade policies. There is likely more support for policy designs which are perceived as fairer and more progressive.  

Policymaking may be more effective via narrative storytelling than hard facts. 

People have complex and deep-rooted views that influence their receptiveness towards different economic policies. For example, just prompting people to think about immigrants before asking them questions on redistributive policies will make them less likely to support redistribution.  

Issues such as climate change, food security, and widening inequality are threats and opportunities. Policymakers should rethink and reinvent economic policies which take into account of the “human perspective” to better serve society.  

Rather than forcing “hard facts” down people’s throats, policy advocates should focus on crafting narratives which can effectively challenge people’s current stance. However, it is important to note that understanding facts are helpful in policymaking within certain domains such as climate change.