The American public and the room to Maneuver: Responsibility attributions and policy efficacy in an Era of globalization

Timothy T. Hellwig, Eve M. Ringsmuth, John R Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Despite the increasing integration of markets, most political scientists contend that governments retain much policy "room to maneuver." Moreover, citizens presumably support further economic integration because they believe their governments can cushion the impacts of market forces. In this sense, globalization is compatible with democracy. Rarely, however, are data provided that demonstrate citizens' appreciation for the room to maneuver, let alone their positive evaluation of it. Who do citizens identify as most responsible for the performance of the U.S. economy, elected officials or national and international market forces? Which citizens attribute economic performance to these forces and not to their elected officials? In this article, we report results from an original experiment designed to answer these questions. We find that a good number of Americans believe that their government retains the room to maneuver. However, there exists a substantial minority that does not. We show, consistent with recent developments in the study of political psychology on distal associations and partisan motivated reasoning, that this minority is characterized according to partisanship, knowledge levels, and age. Republican partisans and more educated citizens believe there is less room to maneuver than Democratic partisans and members of older age cohorts. Generational factors also shape beliefs in the efficacy of policy control. Finally, priming subjects to think about economic globalization does not affect their responsibility attributions. The choice set matters, however. When provided the option, a significant number of respondents assign responsibility to market forces rather than elected officials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)855-880
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008


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