Environmental politics in a polarized America : public mood and policy consequences
Author(s)Bergquist, Parrish(Sarah Parrish)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Political Science.
Andrea Campbell and Justin Steil.
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As the American political parties have polarized and nationalized, what are the implications for environmental policy? This question is particularly important at the state and local levels, where many environmental policy decisions are made and implemented, but about which scholars have drawn mixed conclusions. This dissertation enters the debate to expand understanding of the parties' role in state-level regulatory enforcement; describe and assess changing public attitudes about environmental protection; and deeply explore local perceptions of an important type of environmental disruption: energy infrastructure. I begin by exploring the public basis for environmental protection. In paper one, I estimate state-level public opinion about environmental protection from the late 1970s through 2016. I show that regional differences in public views about environmental protection have declined, whereas state publics have sorted more cleanly into partisan camps in every state.I also find that economic tradeoffs have increased in their importance for shaping Americans' environmental views. These data provide a crucial foundation for assessing the evolution of the state and national parties' positions about environmental protection, and exploring the elite rhetoric that may explain the shifting drivers of public environmental preferences. In the second paper, I ask how party control of state government institutions influences regulatory enforcement in the U.S. Despite growing evidence for the parties' influence across the slate of policy issues, scholars have drawn divergent conclusions regarding the parties' impact on state environmental policy. I apply a regression discontinuity design to assess whether party control of state houses and governors' mansions causes a meaningful change in Clean Air Act enforcement between 2000 and 2017.The findings suggest that narrowly elected Republican governors and legislative majorities reduce enforcement effort, and that the two branches' influence differs according to their distinct mechanisms of political control over the bureaucracy. Paper three moves beyond public attitudes about environmental topics in the abstract to assess local views of one particularly salient environmental topic: energy. Public views of energy technologies are critical to the United States' energy future, but party and ideology do not contribute much explanatory power in explaining Americans' views of the energy system. I apply a framework rooted in social psychology to explain how sense of place shapes residents' interpretations and evaluations of large-scale energy transmission infrastructure as a threat or an opportunity.
This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Thesis: Ph. D. in Political Science and Urban and Regional Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 2019"Submitted to the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Department of Political Scinece in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science and Urban and Regional Planning." Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages A-57 to A-82).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Political Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning., Political Science.