Effects of framing on perceptions of economic freedom, economic equality, and social justice.
2006 (English)In: Viability and Desirability of Global Democracy., 2006Conference paper (Other academic)
The aim of the study was to examine peoples’ perceptions of the economic dimension of the dilemma between individual freedom and collective equality in society. Our previous research in the frameworks of the project had suggested that the economic aspect—rather than political freedom and equality—elicit the strongest differences in people’s opinions. A tax reform proposed by a number of conservative parties in Sweden served as a background of the study. The proposed reform was aimed at improving the state budget by increasing the incentives for working and decreasing the incentives of receiving social benefits from the state. Seventy-two Stockholm University undergraduates participated in the study. Each participant read descriptions of several possible tax plans in an imaginary society. When presenting the plans, we manipulated several factors. First, the plans were formulated in a way that the tax reform would lead either to increase of income for working people (reward), or a decrease of income for those receiving benefits for the state (penalty). Second, the plans would either affect everyone (meritocratic), or would be aimed at benefiting the low-income groups in society (egalitarian). In addition, the plans were presented either as a change to an existing tax system, or as a new tax system to be introduced. The difference in tax size between workers and social benefit receivers was constant (in favor of workers) in all formulations. The participants evaluated the tax plans according to three criteria—how much each plan would contribute to social justice, to economic freedom, and to economic equality in the society.
The wording of the tax plans mattered most for evaluations of equality; these evaluations also elicited strongest differences between liberal and conservative respondents. The wording mattered least for evaluations of social justice, and had moderate effects on evaluations of freedom. The results showed that different factors influenced judgments of economic freedom and equality. For example, whether plans were worded as reward or penalty had a stronger influence on evaluations of freedom than on evaluations of equality. On the other hand, meritocratic vs. egalitarian formulation had a much stronger effect on evaluations of equality than on evaluations of freedom. The results show that, although freedom and equality are often depicted as opposing ends of the same continuum, people think about different things when evaluating—at least in economic terms—these two concepts. This, in turn, suggests that by careful framing of social issues it may be possible to avoid juxtaposition of values of freedom and democracy, and to reduce controversy in society.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
framing, freedom, equality
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-21304OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-21304DiVA: diva2:187830