30 December 2020

ANU’s Tax and Transfer Policy Institute wondered: “Are differences in preferences for redistribution between right and left wing voters amplified because of misperceptions of inequality? To answer this question, we conduct a nationally representative, randomized survey experiment of 2,584 Australians in which respondents either received information about the level of national inequality and economic mobility, their position in the national income distribution, or no information. We show that both types of information about inequality lead to convergence in preferences for redistribution and charitable giving between right and left wing voters. The effect from the treatments are predominantly due to right wing voters becoming more progressive in their views.” Specifically: “Respondents who are told about the level of inequality and economic mobility in Australia become more pessimistic about upward mobility, more likely to desire urgent action from the government to reduce inequality, and less supportive of traditionally right wing policies (such as cutting corporate taxes). With regards to correcting beliefs about respondents‘ own position in the national income distribution, respondents who are told they are poorer than they expected are less likely to attribute being rich to hard work and more supportive of urgent action by the government to address inequality.”