How strategic response behaviour influences pension reforms

Proposals for pension reform typically meet fierce resistance with the public. But what are the reasons for this opposition? Mostly, we obtain information on voters' preferences from public opinion polls. But the highly political nature of such polls makes them a good instrument for voters to express their discontent not only about pension reform proposals but with politics in general. Scheubel, Schunk und Winter analyze data from an experiment in SAVE to show that the opposition to a reform proposal - in our case to an increased retirement age - can indeed trigger strategic survey responses on another issue.

It is clear that in the wake of demographic change, a reform that increases the retirement age is highly desirable to make pension systems more sustainable. But would voters support such a policy change in the long run? The experiment asks respondents to rate their expected work ability around retirement (i.e. at age 63, 65, or 67) and establishes a connection with the reform proposal to increase the statutory retirement age. This triggers a downward bias in respondents' work ability ratings. This strategic bias is stronger in East Germany. As a consequence, public opinion elicited in an opinion poll should not always be taken as the ultimate reason against a reform proposal. Opposition might not always be related to the specific proposal alone. Still, when controlling for the bias, work ability expectations remain remarkably low, so policy-makers must address the public's concern to be significantly less able to work beyond the age of 65. After all, recent MEA research shows that such concerns are only partially valid.

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Strategic responses: A survey experiment on opposition to pension reforms
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