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Government Responsibility Attributions and the Room to Maneuver Debate


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*Part of TESS 2005 Telephone Survey

Download Telephone Survey Data (includes materials for all surveys in module)

 


Principal Investigator(s):

John R. Freeman
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Email: freeman@umn.edu
Home page: http://www.polisci.umn.edu/people/profile.php?UID=freeman

Sample size: 514
Field period: 11/3/2005 - 2/7/2006

 

Abstract:

Despite increasing integration of world markets, most political scientists contend that governments retain much policy "room to maneuver"; governments still have much capacity to manage their macroeconomies. Rarely however are data provided that demonstrate citizens' appreciation for this room to maneuver, let alone their positive evaluation of it. The few times Europeans have been asked about this issue, many of them reply that their government has lost its capacity to influence the macroeconomy. The experiment was divided into two parts. First, the impacts of question wording were analyzed--priming about and including in the choice set international market forces. Then, on the basis of the responses in part one, subjects were divided into two groups: believers and nonbelievers in the room to maneuver. And another set of questions were posed to them about how they reason about government capacity (market constraints), and their satisfaction with the policies of the two political parties in particular and American democracy in general.

Hypotheses:

a. Priming about and including in the choice set international market forces should reduce the frequency of government (President and Congress) responsibility attributions

b. Republicans and especially the more educated should be more likely to attribute responsibility for economic performance to market forces

Experimental Manipulations:

Random assignment of subjects to different question, priming, and choice set combinations (the basic content of questions followed those used in the study of responsibility attribution in the American National Election study, a NBC/Wall St. Journal poll, British Election Panel Study, and British Social Survey). Sorting of respondents into two groups on the basis of their responses to initial questions (treatment)

Key Dependent Variables:

Responsibility attributions, assessments of government capacity to influence economy in general and influence prices, create jobs, and help displace workers in particular. Assessments of political party performance and of satisfaction with American democracy.

Summary of Findings:

In contrast to some European publics, we find a good number of Americans believe that our government still retains much room to maneuver. However there exists a substantial minority that does not. This minority is defined primarily by their partisanship and level of education. Republican partisans and more educated citizens believe there is less room to maneuver than Democratic partisans and less educated citizens. While priming subjects to think about economic globalization does not affect their responsibility attributions, the choice set matters: when provided the option, a significant number of respondents assign responsibility to market forces rather than to elected officials.

References:

Hellwig, T. T., E. M. Ringsmuth, and J. R. Freeman. 2007. “Responsibility Attributions and the Room to Maneuver.” Presented at the 2007 Midwest Political Science Association Meeting. Chicago, IL.

Hellwig, T. T., E. M. Ringsmuth, and J. R. Freeman. 2007. "The American Public and the Room to Maneuver: Responsibility Attributions and Policy Efficacy in an Era of Globalization." Paper presented at the 2007 Conference on Globalization and Democracy, Princeton University.

Hellwig, T. T., E. M. Ringsmuth, and J. R. Freeman. 2008. The American Public and the Room to Maneuver: Responsibility Attributions and Policy Efficacy in an Era of Globalization. International Studies Quarterly, 52: 855–880. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2478.2008.00529.x


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