Narratives about and Support for Economic Institutions

Last registered on August 09, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Narratives about and Support for Economic Institutions
Initial registration date
August 05, 2022

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
August 09, 2022, 4:35 PM EDT

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



Primary Investigator

ifo Institut, LMU Munich

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
ifo Institute, LMU Munich, CESifo
PI Affiliation
ifo Institute, LMU Munich
PI Affiliation
ifo Institute, LMU Munich
PI Affiliation
ifo Institute, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg
PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
ifo Institute, LMU Munich, CESifo

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
In recent years, democracies on the globe are facing the challenge of eroding support for established economic institutions. In Europe, most democracies have adopted some form of social market economy (SME), which balances between economic efficiency and the redistribution of resources. While the SME is often used as a popular phrase in political rhetoric, general knowledge about the attributes of the SME in the general population is low. In this paper, we examine whether limited knowledge contributes to declining support for economic institutions. We first elicit individuals' narratives about the SME to identify perceptions and misperceptions about the SME. We then design a randomized controlled trial in which a random subset of participants receives information about the construction of the SME. Our treatments also differentiate between general information and variants that put greater emphasis on either market aspects or social aspects of the SME. Our RCT explores whether correcting erroneous beliefs about the SME increases individuals’ support for economic institutions. The survey is conducted in Germany, which provides an ideal laboratory to study our research question, given that it is not only the largest European economy but also has a strong historical connection to the SME. Our analysis provides important implications for policy design. If declining support for existing institutions is driven by a lack of information, then trust may be restored simply via the provision of information.

External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Blesse, Sebastian et al. 2022. "Narratives about and Support for Economic Institutions." AEA RCT Registry. August 09.
Experimental Details


We provide survey participants with an explanation of the SME according to the economist Müller-Armack who contributed heavily to its conceptualization and implementation in post-war Germany. Survey participants are split into three treatment groups and a control group. The information treatments include a definition of the SME which highlights the duality of economic and social elements. The first group receives an additional explanation of the economic elements, e.g. touching upon competition and growth. The second group receives an additional explanation of the social elements, e.g. touching upon income redistribution and social support programs. The third group receives both additional explanations.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
We test whether the type of explanation impacts both the respondents’ beliefs on the strengths of the SME and their support for it.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
We have six variables to measure the perceived strengths of the SME. Individuals report whether they agree with statements on (1) historic economic success in 1950s, (2) current economic success, (3) income inequality, (4) economic growth, (5) resilience against crises, (6) ability to tackle future challenges.

We have three variables to measure support for the SME: (1) preference for alternative eco-nomic systems, (2) reported support for SME, (3) perceived societal support for SME.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
A subgroup of survey participants receives an information treatment. This information treatment provides an explanation of the SME allowing participants to update their knowledge and adjust their beliefs. As we expect knowledge on the SME to be low in the general population, we test whether information provision has an impact on the level of support for the SME. As allocation to a treatment group is random, a comparison with a control group will serve as a valid comparison to establish the causal effect of information provision.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Survey participants are randomly allocated to either of the three treatment groups or the control group.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
1 – Individuals from Germany with quotas according to population on gender, age, region, education and income.
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
(1) 40% control group,
(2) 20% standard explanation + social element (T1),
(3) 20% standard explanation + economic element (T2),
(4) 20% standard explanation + social element + economic element (T3)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
German Association for Experimental Economic Research e.V.
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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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