Administrative burden, social construction, and public support for government programs

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Jill Nicholson-Crotty
Susan M. Miller
Lael R. Keiser


Administrative burden, Social construction, Social welfare programs, Public opinion, Survey experiment


Administrative burden imposes costs on citizens as they interact with government. A high level of administrative burden in programs is linked to negative outcomes for those engaging with the policy, such as reduced take-up. However, despite the negative effects, the mass public is often supportive of greater administrative burden for government programs, and research suggests that high levels of burden can increase favorability toward government social programs, at least for some individuals. However, research suggests that these attitudes may be affected by how target populations associated with programs are socially constructed. In this paper, we explore whether the effect of information about high and low administrative burden on program approval is influenced by the social construction of participants. Using a survey experiment, we examine how the relationship between burden and program attitudes differs across programs as well as across different types of applicants. Our results suggest the effect of burden on program approval varies by the social construction of program participants, providing insight into the role of social construction in the relationship between burden and support for government aid.

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