Acting on Faith: How Regulatory Trust Affects Demand for Food Safety Attributes in China

Unprecedented economic growth has led to a proliferation of regulatory policies over a wide range of governance issues, not only in developed countries but increasingly in developing ones. Governments often present the adoption of such policies as a way to achieve the public interest or meet societal demands, e.g. for food safety or consumer protection. Yet we know little about what drives demand for such regulation. In this paper, I argue that, because citizens generally cannot independently validate the integrity of regulatory efforts, trust in the regulator is a major factor in how much citizens demand regulation. Testing this argument using a survey experiment of Chinese demand for food safety regulation, I find that trust plays a larger role than even price in explaining demand for certified foods relative to uncertified foods. By employing different question frames, I further find that this relationship is sensitive to status quo bias.

This manuscript is a stand-alone article based on the fourth chapter of my dissertation, The Politics of Food Safety: Detection and Perceptions of Food Safety Problems in China.

Click here to download the manuscript.

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