Mutz, Kim Present at MPSA

Professor Diana C. Mutz and doctoral student Eunji Kim presented their research last month during the Midwest Political Science Association conference in Chicago. The titles of their work and abstracts follow:

“The Impact of Ingroup Favoritism on Trade Preferences,” by Diana Mutz and Eunji Kim.


Using a population-based survey experiment, this study evaluates the role of ingroup favoritism in influencing attitudes toward international trade. By systematically altering which countries gain or lose from a given trade policy (Americans and/or people in trading partner countries), we vary the role that ingroup favoritism should play in influencing preferences.

Our results provide evidence of two distinct forms of ingroup favoritism. The first, and least surprising, is that Americans value the well-being of other Americans more than that of people outside their own country. Consistent with the compatriotism hypothesis, Americans favor policies that benefit their own country over policies that benefit people in other countries. Rather than maximize total gain, Americans choose policies that maximize ingroup well-being. Moreover, this impact is driven by a sense of national superiority; Americans favor their national ingroup only to the extent that they perceive Americans to be more deserving than outgroup members.

Second, high levels of perceived intergroup competition lead some Americans to prefer trade policies that benefit the ingroup relative to the outgroup. In other words, in order for a policy to elicit support, it is important not only that the U.S. benefit, but that it benefit more than the trading partner country. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding bipartisan public opposition to trade.

“Anchoring Effects in the Measurement of Political Attitudes – Do We All Really Agree on Economic Inequality?” by Rasmus T. Pedersen (University of Copenhagen) and Diana C. Mutz.


Several recent studies have shown that voters across the political spectrum are in remarkable agreement about their preferred level of economic inequality. Based on a widely used measure, people across the political spectrum ostensibly want the same differences in pay between top earners and workers. Using existing survey data from 40 countries and a novel survey experiment in the U.S., we show that this apparent agreement is caused by the anchoring heuristic. When formulating preferences for the level of economic inequality, survey respondents are strongly affected by numerical anchors, i.e. numbers which suggest a starting point from which to think about such policy issues.  Our study shows that such anchoring effects are substantial and that the effects are many times larger than the influence of fundamental political predispositions.  These findings have implications for our understanding of public attitude toward inequality, and they should have consequences for future measurement of attitudes toward economic inequality in surveys.