Expectations, motivations, and responsibility attribution

How policy surprises affect public reactions to labor market regulation policies


Raanan Sulitzeanu-Kenan, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel)

Reimut Zohlnhöfer, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (Germany)

Bernhard Kittel (University of Vienna (Austria)


How do political expectations shape responsibility attribution for adverse policy consequences? Existing studies suggest that the level of congruence between a policy and the expectations from policymakers plays a role in determining the likelihood and degree of public blame. However, a key limitation of these studies has been in establishing whether this association actually represents a causal relationship. Furthermore, if this relationship is indeed causal, what is the specific mechanism that leads political expectations to moderate responsibility judgments? Our research experimentally studies the causal effect of the association (congruent/incongruent) between policymakers and policies on the level of responsibility attributed to their adverse consequences. Our analyses rely on two survey experiments, conducted in Israel and Germany. Both experiments support our hypothesis. The German Experiment examines public reactions to the adoption of either the liberalization of labor relations or the adoption of a minimum wage policy, by either a center-right or a center-left coalition. The findings suggest that incongruent scenarios result in less responsibility attribution to policymakers, and that this effect is mediated by the inference of a 'practical' rather than 'ideological' policy motivation by respondents.


International seminar


European Centre