Johannes Urpelainen, Columbia University: Electoral Backlash or Positive Reinforcement? Wind Power and Congressional Elections in the United States

ESOP seminar. Johannes Urpelainen is Associate Professor at Columbia University. He will present his paper "Electoral Backlash or Positive Reinforcement? Wind Power and Congressional Elections in the United States", written jointly with Alice Tianbo Zhang.

Johannes Urpelainen. Photo: Columbia University.


Divisive facilities, such as wind turbines or hazardous waste depositories, are important for society but controversial because they often carry local costs. Elections are the most important means for citizens to express their views about divisive facilities, but the political science literature on the topic has little to say about their electoral effects. To fill the gap, we examine the case of wind turbine construction in the United States. An instrumental variable analysis shows that over the years 2003-2012, wind turbine construction generated large electoral benefits for (pro-renewables) Democratic candidates: every 100 megawatts of wind power capacity increased the Democratic vote share in U.S. House elections by 2-3 percentage points. This electoral shift, in turn, has contributed to a pro-environmental shift in congressional roll call voting on the environment. The results suggest that at the level of congressional districts, the local benefits of wind capacity installation outweigh the local costs. The deployment of wind turbine construction strengthens the position of the pro-renewables Democrats at the expense of the anti-renewables Republicans. While the result is inconsistent with naive models of retrospective voting, it accords with positive reinforcement theories on how policies endogenously create their political support.


Read the paper here (.pdf)


Host: Bård Harstad

Published Sep. 12, 2016 1:59 PM - Last modified Aug. 11, 2017 8:19 AM