The Effect of Public Opinion on Environmental Policy in the Face of the Environmental Countermovement

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
Kerry ARD, the Ohio State University, USA
Paige KELLY, the Ohio State University, USA
Research on the Climate Change Counter Movement (CCCM) has revealed evidence of a ‘framing contest’ whereby industry-funded think tanks work to undermine the scientific research that threatens industries’ bottom line (Farrell 2015; Dunlap and McCright 2015; Brulle 2013). While the research on the efforts of this movement to shape public opinion has been growing (e.g. Farrell 2015), there has been less work trying to understand if these efforts have actually been successful at persuading the public on these issues. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, what influence does this changing public opinion have on policy-makers? These questions take on increasing significance in light of changing local environments, which has been shown to influence the salience of environmental issues (Switzer and Vedlitz 2017). In this paper we use structural equation modeling to deconstruct these countervailing forces on environmental policy. To achieve this we utilize restricted General Social Survey at the tract level from 1973 to 2015. In our models we estimate the effect that local environmental risk has on public opinion, as well as assessing the effects that constituent opinion on environmental issues has on Congressional voting compared to the impact of industry funding. We seek to answer the questions: to what extent are voters opinions on environmental issue related to changing environmental risk at the local level? In addition, how much of a Congressional members environmental voting record be explained by their consistent concerns, and how much by campaign funding.