Acceptable Behaviour?

How governments try to shape the behaviours of their citizens is something that has been much discussed over the past few years. Our report, with a foreword from David Halpern, Director of the Behavioural Insights Team at the Cabinet Office, brings together our latest international research on this subject.

Many of the biggest challenges we face as societies around the world could be largely solved if people changed their behaviours and habits.  It’s no surprise then that behavioural economics or “nudge” approaches are of increasing interest to governments and policy-makers.  In these austere times, relatively cheap ways to deal with major issues is hugely attractive.

But at the same time, politicians have been cautious about wholeheartedly backing behaviour change policies – perhaps because they are concerned about how acceptable their citizens (and voters) will find government interference in their decisions. 

Our report, Acceptable Behaviour? looks at exactly this issue – asking citizens across 24 countries how acceptable they find different levels of government intervention on four key policy issues:

  • smoking;
  • eating unhealthy foods;
  • saving for retirement; and
  • living in an environmentally sustainable way.

The findings throw up some interesting surprises and paradoxes. Large parts of the world are not as opposed to government intervention as might be first imagined. But whilst people are willing for governments to intervene in specific areas, when asked about government intervention at a general level there is still strong resistance.

As far as we are aware, this is the first report that addresses these issues internationally.  We are also delighted to have a foreword from Dr David Halpern, the Director of the UK government’s Behavioural Insight Team, and one of the world’s leading thinkers on these issues. At the Ipsos Social Research Institute, we are committed to sharing messages from our research, in the belief that a better understanding of public behaviour will lead to better public policy.

We hope you find this report interesting and if you would like to discuss any of the issues it raises, then please get in touch.

More insights about Public Sector