In the previous blog post I presented US survey results on public support for agriculture policy. I note that most American’s don’t know that US agriculture policy tends to be less generous than many other developed countries. Cross country comparisons are difficult, but serious effort has been made to examine how agriculture policies affect both producers (Producer Support Estimates) and consumers (Consumer Support Estimates). Again, see here for a great book on the topic.
In the previous blog post I examined how the inclusion of food stamps affect public opinion. Food stamps have a modest impact on public opinion and the bigger story was one of partisanship. Democrats and independents were more supportive of agriculture policy when we included information on food stamps. Republicans were less supportive.
In this post I address how the size of US agriculture support relative to other countries affects public opinion on US agriculture policy.
For our this question we primed ½ of the respondents with a statement (question 2A). We presented US agriculture policy as more generous than other countries:
Q2A: Countries around the world provide different types of support for farmers, including financial payments to farmers. U.S. farm payments are generally more generous than those of foreign countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The other ½ were given a prime describing the US policy as less generous than other countries. Note that these are both truthful descriptions of the relative position of US farm policy.
Q2B: U.S. farm payments are generally less generous than those of foreign countries such as France, Japan, and Italy.
Then we asked all respondents:
Which of the following statements best describes your opinion?
- The U.S. should increase farm payments
- The U.S. should decrease farm payments
Increases or Decreases in Agriculture Support
This table gives a quick snapshop of aggegrate support for spending increases or decreases. Democrats like more spending, Republicans like less. Nothing too surprising here.
How does framing the US as being more or less generous in their agriculture policies affect support for agriculture spending? Excluding don’t know responses (or individuals who skipped the question), only 40% of respondents supported increases in agriculture when they are primed with info on agriculture being more generous in the US. Support for ag spending rises dramatic with the other prime, where 59.27% of respondents support increases when the US is framed as providing less generous support.
While Democrats and Republicans have different baseline levels of support, both groups respond the same way. Frame the US as less generous than other countries and Republican support for increased spending rises from 30.33% to 45.88%. Democrats jump from 52.89% to 75.74%.
What is the takeaway point from this discussion? This echoes Paul Krugman’s book, “Pop Internationalism.” Politicians often use the language of competition to sell policies. The evidence here suggests that framing US agriculture less generous than (select) other countries is an effective strategy for increasing support for agriculture policy. And the impact is very large. 15-20%.
If this was a research paper I’d end this with some caveats about the limits to this methodology or cheap talk about future research. But I think there are some broader implications here. I’ve been trying to get my head around US agriculture policy for years, and making comparisons across countries is difficult. The complex lumping of price supports, insurance, conservation programs, school lunch programs, and food stamps further increases the complexity of examining these program. This complexity makes it hard for academic researchers, much less even the most informed voter, to understand these programs. Some issues are inherently complex. Other can be made purposely complex by incumbent politicians, and this complexity can be exploited. I fear agriculture policy is the latter.
One final question to my sole reader. Hi mom. Do these results seem obvious to you? Interestingly, René Lindstädt (Essex) and I have run a whole series of survey experiments on the US public's views towards environmental, tax, and trade policy. We find essentially no significant effect of many "globalization" primes and frames on environmental and trade policy, and a modest effect on tax policy.
Here is one working paper on the topic.
Jensen, Nathan M., Rene Lindstaedt and Justin Leinaweaver. Policy Diffusion or Insulation? Global Policy Choices and American Public Opinion.
We have a ton of new data to look at. But, interestingly, some commentators (and reviewers) of this research on tax, environmental, and trade policy have noted that they’d be surprised if American’s responded to “global” primes and frames at all. It certainly seems to matter for agriculture policy, and the impact it very large.
This is work in progress. Any comments are welcome. I also promise to make some pretty figures to present these results. Ok, that is cheap talk. Sorry mom.