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Does Job Insecurity Shape Policy Preferences? An Experimental Manipulation of Labor Market Risk

Research on political behavior and policy preferences has long argued that economic or labor market risk should motivate support for social policy, especially social insurance. We test this expectation about political behavior using a survey experiment in the nationally representative 2020 US Cooperative Congressional Election Study, through which we manipulate perceptions of labor market risk. Although our results suggest that our treatment successfully induced greater perceived labor market insecurity among respondents, we find no support for the expectation that risk of job loss translates into preferences for unemployment insurance policy design. We further find that Republicans react to the suggestion of macroeconomic change (either positive or negative) with a preference for rolling back unemployment insurance benefits, while Democrats’ policy preferences are not significantly changed by the treatment. This result raises interesting questions for future analysis and research.