Austerity, inequality, and political participation in the UK after the Great Recession

Last registered on January 06, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Austerity, inequality, and political participation in the UK after the Great Recession
Initial registration date
October 28, 2021

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
November 01, 2021, 11:19 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
January 06, 2023, 8:12 AM EST

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.


Primary Investigator

Maastricht University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
United Nations University UNU-WIDER
PI Affiliation
John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
In 2011, the government of the United Kingdom introduced wide-ranging austerity policies to deal with high public debt in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Austerity lasted for a decade. The resulting cuts to government spending on public investment, services, and social protection, especially during the initial fiscal consolidation phase of 2011-2015, incurred significant welfare losses on the population. We provide evidence from observational microeconomic data and a large-scale online experiment in the UK which shows that exposure to welfare losses from austerity spurs political participation and increases citizens’ preferences for government redistribution. In particular, people express support for raising taxes on richer citizens to consolidate public debt, and for increasing welfare spending to cushion hardship for the vulnerable. Our experimental data further suggests that a change in individual preferences for redistribution might be one relevant channel through which austerity can affect political participation.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Justino, Patricia , Bruno Martorano and Laura Metzger. 2023. "Austerity, inequality, and political participation in the UK after the Great Recession." AEA RCT Registry. January 06.
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Experimental Details


The study, an online survey experiment, consists of three parts. This first part comprises a set of survey questions about participants’ socioeconomic characteristics and their general views on government, politics, and societal issues in the UK. The second part consists of the experiment: short videos about UK austerity policies based on publicly available, validated sources that are referenced in the material. The third and final part comprises questions about participants' view on austerity policies in the UK and their impact on UK citizens, as well as willingness to take political actions related to austerity.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
1) An individual's willingness to sign a petition against reinstating Austerity policies in the UK (political participation, behavioral outcome).
2) An individual's preference for political participation elicited through self-reported questions (political participation, self-reported).
3) An individual's preference for redistribution in society elicited through a set of non-incentivized survey questions that are typically used in the pertinent literature.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The experiment will apply an informational treatment to investigate whether and how exposure to information about austerity may shape individual preferences for redistribution and influence political outcomes. Participants will be randomized into three groups, two treatment groups (the information treatments) and one control group. Participants in the ‘information treatment’ groups (treatment 1 and treatment 2) will be shown professionally produced videos about austerity. In treatment 1, participants will watch a video on austerity; treatment 2 participants will watch a video on austerity and its costs in terms of social and economic deprivation among vulnerable population segments. The control group will be shown a video of similar length and with informational content irrelevant for the purpose of the study. We except participants in treatment group 2 to be significantly more likely to adjust their redistributive preferences vis-a-vis the control group. We also expect participants in treatment group 2 to be significantly more inclined to sign the petition. Our main interest is in comparing each treatment to the comparison group, and if sensible, to compare pooled data from treatments 1 and 2 to the comparison group.

Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Using the built-in randomizer of Qualtrics, the survey software we are using for the experiment.
Randomization Unit
Individual survey participants.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Not applicable for this individual level randomization.
Sample size: planned number of observations
1500 individuals will be recruited via Prolific, an on demand self-service data collection platform with high quality data that is suitable for research.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
500-700 individuals in the control group. 300-500 individuals in treatment groups 1 and 2 respectively.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ethical Review Committee Inner City Faculties
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials