I am a PhD candidate in the political science department at MIT, where I study how the design of public policies affects how we perceive the costs and benefits of government.

In most countries, people cross paths with the government every day, whether they realize it or not. This happens in obvious ways, like paying taxes, and potentially less obvious ways, like interfacing with publicly-funded services. Can these interactions slowly but surely shape people’s perceptions of governance?

We know quite a bit about how the content of policies shapes how government is viewed. I argue in my dissertation that the design of policies plays an important role as well. Whether intentional or not, the ways in which policy content is presented to citizens generates an interface with the state that can be highly politically influential.

In an era of growing suspicion of government and anti-Establishment rhetoric, it will be in the interest of scholars and policymakers alike to know how modest policy design choices can impact perceptions of—and support for—governance.

Olivia Bergman