Senate support for green policies drops when unemployment is high

When state unemployment rates are high, US Senators are less likely to vote for policies that protect the environment, a study suggests.

Grant Jacobsen, a researcher at the University of Oregon in Eugene, examined 296 senators’ voting records from 1976 to 2008. Each record had been scored annually from 0 to 100, according to how often the person supported the environmentally-friendly side. Jacobsen also gathered Bureau of Labor Statistics data on state unemployment rates over the same time period.

When unemployment rose by 1 point, an average senator’s green score dropped by 0.48 points, he reports in Economics Letters. Right-wing senators responded more strongly: Incumbent Republicans’ green scores dropped by 0.83 points, while incumbent Democrats’ dropped by only 0.29 points. Jacobsen estimates that if state unemployment had stayed at a minimum over those three decades, the percentage of bills settled in favor of the environment would have risen from 36 to 41 percent. — Roberta Kwok | 17 May 2013

Source: G.D. Jacobsen. 2013. Do economic conditions influence environmental policy? Evidence from the US Senate. Economics Letters doi: 10.1016/j.econlet.2013.04.028.

Image © Tom Wang |