What is it about?

This research paper looks at the reasons why people may protest in surveys where they are asked how much they would be willing to pay for something, and how this might affect the results. Previous studies have found that around 20% of people may protest in these surveys, but it is not clear why they do so, and it is not clear whether excluding or including these protest responses affects the overall results. We conducted a survey of 1335 people on the topic of farm animal welfare and found that many people who protest are motivated by moral reasons, and that their protest responses are not necessarily linked to a zero willingness to pay. We also found that the inclusion or exclusion of protest responses can affect the results of the survey. Overall, the findings of this study provide important insights into the motivations behind protest responses and their potential impact on survey results.

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Why is it important?

Many surveys about how much people are willing to pay for something might be biased, because around 20% of all survey participants states that they do not want to pay anything. However, it is unclear if it is correct that researchers either simply exclude these persons or, on the other hand, assume that these people would not pay anything for the good in question. This is often not true, because behind the "0" there are many reasons, some of the moral, some of them political. This article tries to get behind these motivations and explain them.


I think it is important to really know what people mean in surveys if they state that they are not willing to pay anything. The best example are vegetarians who will not pay for meat, e.g. if the question is "How much would you pay more for this steak if the animals are treated better?". However, this does not mean that animal welfare is unimportant to them - on the contrary! They are probably the persons most concerned about animal welfare in such surveys.

Ulrich Frey
German Aerospace Center

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Distinguishing protest responses in contingent valuation: A conceptualization of motivations and attitudes behind them, PLoS ONE, January 2019, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209872.
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