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You say offset, I say tax? Study suggests labels and political affiliation may affect preferences
Date:1/12/2010

strong link between our political affiliation and how we react to certain frames. In the "offset" condition, Democratic, Republican, and Independent volunteers tended to select the more expensive, albeit environmentally-friendly, product. They were also equally likely (across party) to support making the cost increase mandatory. However, in the "tax" condition, while Democratic volunteers still opted for the costlier item, Republican and Independent participants were more likely to choose the cheaper item, and did not support legislation.

In addition, analysis of the volunteers' thought processes indicates that labels may have resulted in differences in the order in which they thought about the options, in turn affecting their choices. For example, Republicans volunteers had an immediate, negative reaction to the "tax" option, which made them think about advantages of the cheaper item, which they ultimately chose. However, in the "offset" condition, Republicans listed supportive thoughts towards the surcharge, increasing the likelihood of the more expensive item being selected.

The authors suggest that "policymakers (and those who advise them) would be wise to note the differential impact that policy labels may have on different groups." They conclude, "What might seem like a trivial semantic difference to one person can have a large impact on someone else."


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Contact: Barbara Isanski
bisanski@psychologicalscience.org
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

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