“Policy Impact and Voter Mobilization: Evidence from Farmers’ Trade War Experiences,” Neil Malhotra, Stanford GSB

Event time: 
Wednesday, March 8, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm
Institution for Social and Policy Studies (PROS77 ), A002 See map
77 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 


Abstract: How does the extent of policy benefits—not simply their presence or absence—affect political engagement? While fundamental to understanding the electoral implications of economic policymaking, addressing this question is challenging due to the difficulty of measuring individual voters’ policy outcomes. We examine a natural experiment embedded in President Trump’s Market Facilitation Program, which aided a core Republican constituency: farmers harmed by his 2018 trade war. Due to idiosyncrasies of program design, the MFP undercompensated some farmers for their trade war losses—and significantly overcompensated others—based solely on their 2018 crop portfolios. Analyzing a survey of 575 Midwestern farmers, we show that this variation significantly affected the perceived helpfulness of the intervention. However, an analysis of over 175,000 affected voters shows that improved compensation outcomes had a negligible impact on Republican farmers’ 2018 midterm turnout. Our results suggest that even highly salient variation in policy outcomes may have limited mobilizing capacity.

Neil Malhotra is the Edith M. Cornell Professor of Political Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He has published over 75 peer-reviewed articles on topics ranging from business and politics, voting behavior, and survey methodology. He is the co-author of “Leading with Values” (with Ken Shotts) and the editor of “Frontiers in Social Innovation.”

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