Communicating the Effectiveness and Ineffectiveness of Government Policies and Their Impact on Public Support: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis
Low public support for government interventions in health, environment and other policy domains can be a barrier to implementation. Communicating evidence of policy effectiveness has been used to influence attitudes towards policies, with mixed results. This review provides the first systematic synthesis of such studies. Eligible studies were randomized controlled experiments that included an intervention group that provided evidence of a policy’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness at achieving a salient outcome, and measured policy support.
From 6498 abstracts examined, there were 45 effect sizes from 36 eligible studies. In total, 35 (N = 30 858) communicated evidence of effectiveness, and 10 (N = 5078) communicated evidence of ineffectiveness.
Random effects meta-analysis revealed that communicating evidence of a policy’s effectiveness increased support for the policy, equivalent to support increasing from 50% to 54%. Communicating evidence of ineffectiveness decreased policy support, equivalent to support decreasing from 50% to 44%.
These findings suggest that public support for policies in a range of domains is sensitive to evidence of their effectiveness, as well as their ineffectiveness.