Does Administrative Burden Influence Public Support for Government Programs? Evidence from a Survey Experiment

Source: Lael R. Keiser, Susan M. Miller, Public Administration Review, Volume 80 Issue 1, January/February 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Research indicates that administrative burden influences the behaviors and views of clients and potential clients of government programs. However, administrative burden may also shape mass attitudes toward government programs. Taking a behavioral public administration approach, the authors consider whether and how exposure to information about administrative burden embedded within eligibility‐based programs influences citizen favorability toward those programs. It is hypothesized that if information about the existing screening mechanisms is highlighted and made salient, this will lead to greater approval of eligibility‐based programs. This expectation is evaluated using a survey experiment that explores administrative burden in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The evidence shows that being exposed to information about administrative burden increases favorability toward TANF and its recipients, though these effects are conditional on party identification. The results provide insight into a potential consequence of administrative burden, showing the way in which information regarding burden can shape citizens’ support for eligibility‐based programs.

Evidence for Practice
– Public managers in social welfare programs face challenges in gaining public support because of the stigma associated with these programs.
– The evidence suggests that giving the public information about program screening improves views toward welfare programs.
– Increasing awareness about program screening processes may be beneficial. However, public officials should consider potential trade‐offs, such as discouraging applications.