Electoral Response to the Decline of Coal Mining in the United States
54 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2020
Date Written: October 12, 2020
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
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