[Research paper] Do Europeans Like Nudges?

Do Europeans Like Nudges?
By Lucia A. Reisch (Copenhagen Business School) and Cass R. Sunstein (Harvard Law School)
29 February 2016, 37 pages
Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2739118

In recent years, many governments have shown a keen interest in “nudges” – approaches to law and policy that maintain freedom of choice, but that steer people in certain directions. Yet to date, there is little evidence on whether citizens of various societies support nudges and nudging. We report the results of nationally representative surveys in six European nations: Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and the United Kingdom. We find strong majority support for nudges of the sort that have been adopted, or under serious consideration, in democratic nations. Despite the general European consensus, we find markedly lower levels of support for nudges in two nations: Hungary and Denmark. We are not, in general, able to connect support for nudges with party affiliations.

Excerpt from introduction:
We report here the results of surveys in six nations in Europe: Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and the United Kingdom. The countries were chosen to represent different cultural and geographic regions of Europe as well as different socio-economic regimes and political traditions: a Nordic welfare state (Denmark); a social market economy with a deep, historically grounded distrust of paternalism (Germany); a Central European post-socialist country (Hungary); two Southern European countries with different political regimes, problems, strengths and experience with nudging (France and Italy); and the UK, the country that has spearheaded nudging as a policy tool worldwide since 2010, and hence had several years of debate on the pros and cons of nudging.
Our major finding is simple: In general, there is broad support, throughout the six nations, for twelve of the 15 nudges that we tested – and broad opposition, throughout those nations, to the remaining three nudges. In that respect, we find a substantial consensus among disparate nations. If people believe that a nudge has legitimate goals, and think that it fits with the interests or values of most people, they are overwhelmingly likely to favor it.