When America Says Yes to Government

Cass Sunstein in the New York Times: “In recent years, the federal government has adopted a large number of soft interventions that are meant to change behavior without mandates and bans. Among them: disclosure of information, such as calorie labels at chain restaurants; graphic warnings against, for example, distracted driving; and automatic enrollment in programs designed to benefit employees, like pension plans.

Informed by behavioral science, such reforms can have large effects while preserving freedom of choice. But skeptics deride these soft interventions as unjustified paternalism, an insult to dignity and a contemporary version of the nanny state. Some people fear that uses of behavioral science will turn out to be manipulative. They don’t want to be nudged.

But what do Americans actually think about soft interventions? I recently conducted a nationally representative survey of 563 people. Small though that number may seem, it gives a reasonable picture of what Americans think, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

The remarkable finding is that most Americans approve of these reforms and want a lot more of them — and their approval generally cuts across partisan lines….(More)