George Street Mews
Oxford OX1 2AA
Causal Inference in Policy Feedback: Two Case Studies in American Politics
Scholars of politics have long studied policy feedback, or how one’s experience with public policy influences one’s political attitudes and behavior. Conventional wisdom posits that benefiting from social programs induces voters to mobilize politically to defend these programs. Nevertheless, valid causal inference in the study of policy feedback is difficult because most social program benefits are not randomly assigned. The two case studies in my paper exploit as-if random assignment to program benefits to examine how these programs impact their beneficiaries’ roles as voters and citizens. The first study examines the effect of receiving Medicare on seniors’ preference towards health policy. The second study identifies the effect of receiving a government fellowship on scientists’ political donation and attitudes. These two studies suggest that one’s personal experience with these social programs changes one’s political attitudes and behavior in a limited way; where policy feedback exists, it most likely reflects one’s self-interest. Results from my study have important implications for the design and implementation of enduring social policies.