Electoral Response to the Decline of Coal Mining in the United States

54 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2020

See all articles by Florian Egli

Florian Egli

ETH Zürich - Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences (GESS)

Nicolas Schmid

ETH Zürich - Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences (GESS)

Tobias Schmidt

ETH Zürich - Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences (GESS)

Date Written: October 12, 2020

Abstract

Replacing coal with cleaner energy carriers is a crucial lever to reach the Paris climate targets. However, as coal decline results in local job loss, political backlash might arise, jeopardizing the clean energy transition. Yet, we lack evidence on whether such backlash exists. Here, we analyze the electoral response to coal mining job losses in the United States presidential elections from 2000 to 2016 in a panel regression and a matched difference-in-difference setting. Our results suggest an electoral response in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections specific to the loss of coal mining jobs. We estimate an increased Republican vote share of 1.2 pp in 2012 and 1.5 pp in 2016 for each 100 coal mining jobs lost. The estimated electoral response is thus almost five times as large as the numbers of jobs lost. We observe this response only in places with large job losses, where these jobs account for a large share of locally available jobs and where income levels are low. Existing relative party strengths, however, do not influence the results. Moreover, we find a spillover effect of 2.2 pp in 2016 into counties within 50 km of those affected by coal decline. We discuss the implications of these findings for coal phase-outs worldwide.

Keywords: economic voting, political economy, climate change, coal phase-out, just transition

JEL Classification: Q3, Q48, Q54, Z18

Suggested Citation

Egli, Florian and Schmid, Nicolas and Schmidt, Tobias, Electoral Response to the Decline of Coal Mining in the United States (October 12, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3710589 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3710589

Florian Egli (Contact Author)

ETH Zürich - Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences (GESS) ( email )

ETH-Zentrum SEW E 26
CH-8092 Zurich, Zurich 8006
Switzerland

Nicolas Schmid

ETH Zürich - Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences (GESS) ( email )

ETH-Zentrum SEW E 26
CH-8092 Zurich, Zurich 8006
Switzerland

Tobias Schmidt

ETH Zürich - Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences (GESS) ( email )

ETH-Zentrum SEW E 26
CH-8092 Zurich, Zurich 8006
Switzerland

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