Pollution Lowers Support for China's Regime: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Beijing
Forthcoming, Journal of Politics
110 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2016 Last revised: 31 Oct 2017
Date Written: August 10, 2017
Using an eight-week long original survey conducted day-by-day in Beijing in 2015, we leverage daily variation in air quality to estimate the causal effects of pollution on support for the Chinese regime. Our results show that pollution decreases satisfaction with both central and local governments and increases demand for oversight of government. Additionally, we time our survey to partially coincide with a period during which the government intentionally reduced air pollution, allowing us to exploit a unique instance of authoritarian environmental engineering. We show that government efforts to reduce pollution do successfully improve citizens' evaluations of the regime. To our knowledge, this paper provides the first causal estimates of the challenges to popular support posed by environmental issues in a developing country, and also illustrates the specific ways that public opinion under authoritarian governance is affected by pollution.
Keywords: authoritarian regimes; causal inference; China; environmental politics; public opinion
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