Environmental Economics Seminar
Special interests and public opinion in American environmental politics
PhD student at ETH Zurich
Shedding light on the political inertia around environmental legislation warrants an empirical exploration of the determinants of votes on environmental policy in the US Congress. To estimate the response of legislators to public opinion and special interest pressure, I combine data on public support for environmental policies – estimated by multilevel regression with poststratification – with campaign contributions from the energy industry and environmental groups to indicate special interest influence. The results suggest that politicians respond both to industry contributions and public opinion, with public opinion being the most consistent predictor across different dependent variables. The responsiveness of elected officials to environmental opinion is surprising: while Americans often favour environmental regulation in general, they tend to consider it as of low importance. I discuss possible explanations.
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