Thursday, July 30, 2009

Real Time Environmental Research: Booms are Good for Building Environmental Voting Coalitions

I have wondered whether recession reduces the median voter's desire to enact costly environmental regulations to mitigate local and global externalities and this new California PPIC New Survey supports this conjecture. I've been writing a applied econometrics paper on exactly this topic. The results are preliminary but we are finding in 3 independent data sets support for the claim that people tilt away from environmental issues and prioritize economic issues when the local economy is in recession.

Environmentalists should care about this result because they are not at the margin. They are pro-green no matter what but in a democracy -- you need 50% or more of the vote and these swing voters do care. It is ironic that greens need economic booms to help them enact policies. In many cases, we know that economic growth "hurts" the environment (think of car growth in China). But in green politics, this may not be the case.