Elite Influence on Climate Change Skepticism: Evidence from Close Gubernatorial Elections

63 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2018 Last revised: 18 Oct 2018

Date Written: September 14, 2018


Many theorize that public opinion follows political elite on climate change skepticism, yet evidence of a causal link is lacking. I use a regression discontinuity design to establish the impact of the political party of a governor on constituents’ global warming beliefs. I find that, relative to the election of a Democratic governor, the election of a Republican governor significantly decreases the probability of a Republican constituent believing in global warming by approximately 11 to 15 percentage points; there is no significant impact on Democratic constituents. I also find a negative effect of a Republican governor on belief in human-caused global warming that does not differ by constituent partisan affiliation. These results provide one explanation for the increased political polarization in global warming beliefs despite the scientific consensus. Belief formation often plays an important role in political economy models, so these findings also have implications for implementing climate change policy.

Keywords: global warming, climate change, elections, communication, beliefs, state government, political ideology, public opinion, regression discontinuity

JEL Classification: D72, D83, Q54, Q58, R50

Suggested Citation

Meyer, Andrew, Elite Influence on Climate Change Skepticism: Evidence from Close Gubernatorial Elections (September 14, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3123547 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3123547

Andrew Meyer (Contact Author)

Marquette University ( email )

1225 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53233
United States
414-288-5489 (Phone)

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