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Near Is My Shirt but Nearer Is My Skin: Ideology or Self-Interest as Determinants of Public Opinion on Fiscal Policy Issues

Authors

  • Hans Pitlik,

    1. Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO)
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  • Gerhard Schwarz,

    1. Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO)
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  • Barbara Bechter,

    1. University of Vienna
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  • Bernd Brandl

    1. University of Vienna
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    • *  apl. Prof. Dr. Hans Pitlik (hans.pitlik@wifo.ac.at) and Mag. Gerhard Schwarz (gerhard.schwarz@wifo.ac.at): Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO)Arsenal Objekt 20 1030 Vienna, AustriaPhone: +43 1 798 26 01 - 263. Dr. Barbara Bechter (barbara.bechter@univie.ac.at) and PD Dr. Bernd Brandl (bernd.brandl@univie.ac.at): University of Vienna, Department of Industrial Sociology Institut für Wirtschaftssoziologie Universität Wien Brünner Straße 72 1210 Vienna, Austria Phone +43 1 4277 38 310 Fax: +43 1 4277 38 318. The authors wish to thank the Central Bank of Austria (Oesterreichische Nationalbank) for funding this study under Jubiläumsfonds Project No. 12817. We also thank Christian Björnskov, Arye Hillman, Franz Sinabell, the anonymous referees and the editors of this journal as well as the participants of the respective sessions at the Public Choice Societies' Meetings 2010 in Monterey, CA, and Izmir, Turkey, for valuable comments. Our special thanks go to Andrea Sutrich for valuable assistance in preparing the paper and to the participants of our survey for making our research possible.


SUMMARY

Empirical studies often derive that personal attitudes toward policy measures are dominated by ideology instead of narrow self-interest. In the present field study we carried out a telephone survey with 1,003 respondents all over Austria. Instead of measuring selfishness indirectly by using more or less ‘objective indicators’ for self-interest, we requested that respondents directly assess whether they expect to be affected by policy measures. Our results indicate that subjectively measured self-interest explains attitudes toward economic policies at least as well as ideological conviction. In some cases ideology appears to determine whether people feel affected by a proposed policy measure. This supports the notion of a co-incidence of self-interest and moral arguments in low cost decisions.

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