ABSTRACT

Prior research suggests individuals have difficulty comprehending large magnitude numbers commonly associated with government spending (e.g., millions and billions). We conduct an experiment investigating how the disclosure format of large numbers in government spending affects voter support. We find participants' support for proposed government spending is insensitive to cost when presented in total (e.g., “$718 billion” versus “718 million”) but becomes cost-sensitive in response to a practical intervention, disclosing the dollar amounts in more understandable per-household terms (e.g., “$5,744 per U.S. household” versus “5.74 per U.S. household”), and find participant support becomes cost-sensitive after viewing this disclosure format. This research demonstrates how support for government spending can change significantly depending on different (but economically equivalent) disclosure formats. Specifically, the per-household disclosure format increases stakeholders' understanding of large magnitude spending policies and helps them form judgments better informed by their cost-sensitive preferences.

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