DOI: 10.1111/gove.12849 ISSN: 0952-1895

Citizen blame attributions for government fiscal crises: Experimental evidence from China

Wenchi Wei, Nicolai Petrovsky, Xing Ni
  • Marketing
  • Public Administration
  • Sociology and Political Science


This study conducts a randomized survey experiment to examine the impact of budgeting professionalism, environmental shocks, and fiscal transparency on citizen blame attributions during government fiscal crises. Theoretically, we distinguish between two logics of responsibility attribution: causal responsibility stresses the causal link between an actor's actions and specific phenomena; functional responsibility underlines an actor's legal, moral, or social obligations in relation to such phenomena. Our experiment focuses on empirically testing causal responsibility. Moreover, fiscal transparency may shape citizens' perceptions regarding government fiscal performance and subsequently influence blame attributions. The experimental results show that citizens attribute less blame to government leaders when professional experts play a more important role in the budgeting process, when localities experience severe environmental shocks, or when governments exhibit greater fiscal transparency. These findings support inferences based on the logic of causal responsibility and establish a clear relationship between fiscal transparency and citizen perceptions of government performance.

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