Peyton, K. (2020). Does Trust in Government Increase Support for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Survey Experiments. American Political Science Review. Published online: 09 March 2020. DOI:10.1017/S0003055420000076
Why have decades of high and rising inequality in the United States not increased public support for redistribution? An established theory in political science holds that Americans’ distrust of government decreases their support for redistribution, but empirical support draws primarily on regression analyses of national surveys. I discuss the untestable assumptions required for identification with regression modeling and propose an alternative design that uses randomized experiments about political corruption to identify the effect of trust in government on support for redistribution under weaker assumptions. I apply this to three survey experiments and estimate the effects that large, experimentally induced increases in political trust have on support for redistribution. Contrary to theoretical predictions, estimated effects are substantively negligible, statistically indistinguishable from zero, and comparable to estimates from two placebo experiments. I discuss implications for theory building about causes of support for redistribution in an era of rising inequality and eroding confidence in government.