Not all responsiveness is the same: An unequal thermostatic model across income-groups

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Wed. 10.04.'24 17:05



Abstract :

An important focus of empirical accounts of representative democracy is the policy-opinion nexus. Drawing from the thermostatic model (Wlezien 1995), this study examines the dynamic relationship between public opinion and policy in one of the more salient issue domains across European democracies, namely income inequality and redistribution.  The thermostatic model shows that the public adapts their policy preferences in reaction to policy changes, demanding less public spending when it increases and more of it when it decreases. We advance in the study of public responsiveness by disaggregating public responses across income groups. More specifically, we explore the extent to which different income groups react differently to changes in welfare policies. We rely on dozens of high-quality surveys (more than 500 separate series, corresponding to nearly 2,500 marginals) and a dyadic-ratio algorithm to design comparable measures of redistributive preferences for 7 countries. We find evidence of public and policy responsiveness for both the rich and the poor, suggesting dynamic representation in the redistributive arena. Yet, we also find that the rich adapt to policy changes more rapidly and their preferences influence policy more, thereby hinting at unequal representation.