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The University of Chicago Press

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Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists

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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 11–15 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.


Accepted version. Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, Vol. 6, No. 4 (July 2019): 783-822. DOI. © 2019 University of Chicago Press. Used with permission.

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