Trade-Offs Between Redistribution and Environmental Protection: the Role of Information, Ideology, and Self-Interest


Reducing economic inequality and combatting climate change are two strongly supported policy goals, but they will require significant public investments. In times of limited fiscal resources, governments struggle to raise additional revenues needed to finance both, making trade-offs between generally supported policy goals likely. But how do citizens decide if they have to choose between goals they support in principle, such as spending on efforts to reduce inequality and channeling resources toward initiatives to protect the environment? We discuss three major factors that help explain this choice – information, self-interest, and ideological orientation. Our experimental study shows that information is not a significant determinant of such choices, and that ideology is only important as long as there are no conflicting goals. Once citizens have to decide between redistribution and environmental protection, myopic self-interest trumps all other theoretically relevant variables mentioned in the literature.

Journal of European Public Policy 28(4), 489-509
Reto Bürgisser
Reto Bürgisser
Postdoctoral Researcher

My research interests include political economy, comparative politics, and political behavior.