Meritocratic preferences among politicians and their consequences for redistributive attitudes

About this Session


Wed. 10.04. 17:05



Authors: Maj-Britt Sterba, Christian Breunig.

Abstract: If and how individuals and societies respond to economic inequality constitutes a central concern for contemporary political economy. Fundamental views on fair and just distributions of economic outcomes within society shape these attitudes on inequality and redistribution. The dominant narrative states that a distribution is just when outcomes are allocated according to merit. We argue that it is crucial to know what politicians view as a fair economic distribution and what is the importance they assign to it for two reasons. First, elected politicians are capable to re-distribute economic resources and as such they can translate their fundamental views into policy. Second, politicians reveal their views publicly. They therefore integrate their fairness views differently into their policy preferences than citizens as they also consider possible negative reactions of people affected by the policy (or disagreeing with their fairness assessment). In this study, we measure adherence to the meritocratic fairness ideal among national representatives in seven rich democracies. In our pre-registered experimental design, we test the effect of fairness views on support for redistributive policies and investigate whether redistribution choices are influenced by endowment effects.