Public preferences for new information on opioids


Context: Educating the public through information campaigns is a commonly used policy approach to public health problems. Yet, experimental methods that assess the impact of information campaigns may misestimate their effects by failing to account for respondents' willingness to receive new information. Methods: This article uses a doubly randomized survey experiment conducted on a nationally representative sample, where some subjects are randomly assigned to an informational treatment about opioids while other subjects are given the choice of whether to receive treatment or not, to examine how public willingness to seek new information shapes the way they update their preferences about policies related to the opioid epidemic. Findings: Among those likely to receive information, treatment has a large positive effect on increasing support for policies that address the opioid epidemic by about one half of a standard deviation. Among those who would avoid this information, preferences appear to be unmoved by treatment. These effects would be missed by standard experimental designs. Conclusion: While redressing information asymmetries is only one part of a public health strategy for addressing the opioid epidemic, our findings highlight the importance of access to and receptiveness toward new information.

Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law