All in this together: deservingness of government aid during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented pressure on governments to engage in widespread cash transfers directly to citizens to help mitigate economic losses. These programs are major redistribution efforts aimed at a variety of sub-groups within society (the unemployed, those with children, those with pre-existing health conditions, etc.) and there has been remarkably little resistance to these government outlays. We employ a novel and pre-registered paired vignette experiment to assess support for government aid during the pandemic in a large, nationally representative sample. We evaluate whether the “normal” deservingness hierarchy and considerations of social affinity or material self-interest continue to drive preferences of Canadians regarding redistribution. We find only small deservingness considerations and little evidence that redistribution preferences are informed by similarity considerations. Instead, we find broad, generous, and non-discriminatory support for direct cash transfers during this period of crisis.

Read preprint here.