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Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy

The Bush School of Government and Public Service

Texas A&M University
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Vedlitz and Other ISTPP Researchers Compare Experimental and Attitudinal Measures of Policy Support

Dr. Arnold Vedlitz and his co-authors, Dr. Scott Robinson and Dr. James Stoutenborough, published their comparison of experimental and attitudinal approaches for measuring public policy support in a book devoted to experiments in public administration research. To compare the two approaches, the authors utilize a survey that measured public support for various water policies. Through the traditional attitudinal model, the authors provide respondents with an 11-point scale by which they rate their level of support for a particular policy. Through the experimental approach, the authors utilize a willingness-to-pay (WTP) system in which respondents indicated whether they would be willing to pay a stratified randomly assigned amount extra on their water bills to secure water supply in their areas.

Throughout their chapter, the authors analyze the benefits and flaws of both the attitudinal and experimental approaches to measuring public support. They highlight instances where the attitudinal model might be a more appropriate approach than the WTP model and vice versa. The researchers conclude that the attitudinal model provides researchers more flexibility in the type of policies surveyed along with a general sense of the degree of public support related to types of policies. They also note that the experimental model provides a greater ability to make inferences, but only within certain types of policy questions and evaluations.

Robinson, Scott E., James W. Stoutenborough, and Arnold Vedlitz. 2017. “Assessing Public Support for Government Policy: Comparing Experimental and Attitudinal Approaches.” In Experiments in Public Administration Research: Challenges and Contributions, edited by S. Jilke, O. James, and G. Van Ryzin, 376-393. New York: Cambridge University Press