The primary goal is to identify how the different information treatments impact subject’s perceptions of corruption of the tax administration in Honduras, the potentially subsequent willingness to evade taxes and related outcomes. Data will be collected through an online survey. Participants will be selected randomly from the general population of Honduras (with internet access) and will be assigned to different communication treatments (explained in the Intervention section):
2. "Perception" Treatment.
3. "Purge" Treatment.
4. "Purge" + "perception" treatment ("combined" treatment).
The primary outcomes include a set of self-reported outcomes regarding the beliefs and perceptions of the tax authority (presented in the Primary Outcomes Section). The secondary outcomes are related to self-reported measures of willingness to evade taxes, and other outcomes regarding tax morale and honest behavior in a dice game (presented in the Secondary Outcomes Section). Specifically, the dice game involves rolling a virtual die which produces a random number. Participants then report this number, and in return, they receive a certain number of tickets for a specific lottery based on the reported value. The more tickets they accumulate, the better their chances of winning. Participants can lie to get more tickets in the game. The virtual dice will be unbalanced towards 1 to maximize the incentive to untruthfully report a number in this game.
The hypotheses of this experiment are the following:
1. "Perception" vs. control Hypothesis: Changing individuals' beliefs about corruption by emphasizing lower corruption levels ("perception") will positively affect perceptions of the Honduras tax authority compared to a neutral message (control), assuming that individuals believe the information provided in this treatment arm.
2. "Purge" vs. control Hypothesis: Communicating government efforts to combat corruption ("purge") will positively affect perceptions of the Honduras tax authority compared to a neutral message (control). However, as a recent literature highlights, such messages may backfire depending on individuals' initial beliefs about corruption - specifically, the purge treatment may reinforce an initial negative perception of the tax authority (Cheeseman and Peiffer, 2022). We will explore this heterogeneity for this and other treatment arms.
3. "Combined" vs. control Hypothesis: Combining both strategies ("combined") implies changing beliefs about corruption first (with the "perception" treatment) and emphasizing government actions next (with the "purge" treatment), and this sequence could positively affect perceptions of the Honduras tax authority compared to a neutral message (control). Its effect could be higher than the combined effect of treatments separately if it compensates for a potential backfire of the "purge" treatment. The "combined" effect, however, can backfire if the "purge" treatment makes the problem of corruption too salient (see Cheeseman and Peiffer, 2022).
4. "Combined" vs. "purge” Hypothesis: The combined message strategy ("combined") will be more effective than emphasizing government actions alone ("purge") because it could partially offset the potential backfire effects of "purge" alone.
6. "Perception" vs. "purge" Hypothesis: Changing perceptions about corruption ("perception") will be more effective compared to emphasizing government actions ("purge"), assuming that perceptions of corruption of the public administration play a significant role (Cheeseman and Peiffer, 2022) and that individuals believe the information provided in the "perception" treatment.
Our hypothesis implies that there may be heterogeneous effects according to individuals’ initial beliefs about corruption. We will study treatment heterogeneity along this dimension, for instance by studying whether high initial beliefs corruption perceptions trigger a backfire in the "purge" treatment (and, consequently, in the "combined" treatment). The main variable for heterogeneity is the respondents’ pre-treatment perception of government agents’ corruption, which will be used for subgroups analysis and as a control in regressions. At the same time, to observe whether the perceptions of corruption of the city's inhabitants changed, we will include a pre-treatment question that asks about the pre-treatment perceptions of Hondurans in general, which will also to serve as control in this case. As an alternative, we will use an index of trust in institutions from pre-treatment questions on trust in the Church, in Congress, in the Executive Branch and in the police.
We will collect a series of baseline characteristics, such as the age of the respondents, their sex, their ideology, the region in which they live and their education level. The firm in charge of the survey includes checks for attention and identifies outliers in the time spent on the questionnaire.