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The policy acknowledgement gap: Explaining (mis)perceptions of government social program use

Publication ,  Journal Article
SoRelle, ME; Shanks, D
Published in: Policy Studies Journal
January 1, 2023

Nearly, all Americans have received social policy benefits, yet many do not acknowledge “using government social programs.” Why? Work on the submerged state proposes that people who receive social assistance through market mechanisms do not realize that the benefits they get are the result of government policy, and therefore, they do not acknowledge receiving government assistance. Others point to motivated reasoning or social desirability bias to explain the gap between acknowledging and using social programs. We classify the existing literature into three broad explanations—delivery, definition, and desirability—and propose that each may be responsible for people's inability to accurately report using government social programs. We test these mechanisms with original survey experiments. The results of this study provide support for the theory that multiple mechanisms are at work in shaping social policy acknowledgment, but they confirm that a partisan acknowledgement gap exists across a variety of conditions, and it persists despite treatments designed to minimize it. The study has significant implications for the conditions under which partisanship and policy usage coalesce to undermine support for government social expenditures, and it helps to explain the persistence of a “makers vs. takers” logic in American politics.

Duke Scholars

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Published In

Policy Studies Journal

DOI

EISSN

1541-0072

ISSN

0190-292X

Publication Date

January 1, 2023

Related Subject Headings

  • General Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
  • 4408 Political science
  • 4407 Policy and administration
  • 1606 Political Science
  • 1605 Policy and Administration
 

Citation

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SoRelle, M. E., & Shanks, D. (2023). The policy acknowledgement gap: Explaining (mis)perceptions of government social program use. Policy Studies Journal. https://doi.org/10.1111/psj.12513
SoRelle, M. E., and D. Shanks. “The policy acknowledgement gap: Explaining (mis)perceptions of government social program use.” Policy Studies Journal, January 1, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1111/psj.12513.
SoRelle, M. E., and D. Shanks. “The policy acknowledgement gap: Explaining (mis)perceptions of government social program use.” Policy Studies Journal, Jan. 2023. Scopus, doi:10.1111/psj.12513.
Journal cover image

Published In

Policy Studies Journal

DOI

EISSN

1541-0072

ISSN

0190-292X

Publication Date

January 1, 2023

Related Subject Headings

  • General Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
  • 4408 Political science
  • 4407 Policy and administration
  • 1606 Political Science
  • 1605 Policy and Administration