Trust in Institutions: Narrowing the Ideological Gap over the Federal Budget

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Kim-Lee Tuxhorn
John W. D'Attoma
Sven Steinmo

Keywords

Budget Preferences, Budget Policy, Tax Preferences, Spending Preferences, Trust in Government, Interactive Budget Simulation

Abstract

Do liberals and conservatives who trust the government have more similar preferences regarding the federal budget than liberals and conservatives who do not? Prior research has shown that the ideological gap over spending increases and tax cuts narrows at high levels of trust in government. We extend this literature by examining whether the dampening effect of trust operates when more difficult budgetary decisions (spending cuts and tax increases) have to be made. Although related, a tax increase demands greater material and ideological sacrifice from individuals than tax cuts. The same logic can be applied to support for spending cuts. We test the trust-as-heuristic hypothesis using measures of revealed budgetary preferences from a population-based survey containing an embedded budget simulation. Our findings show that trusting liberals and conservatives share similar preferences toward spending cuts and tax increases, adding an important empirical addendum to a theory based on sacrificial costs.