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Why do people support different environmental policy measures in different contexts?

Research project
Active research
Project owner
Department of Political Science

Short description

Several of the most severe problems of environmental degradation that the global society face today, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and the rapid exploitation of natural resources, are due to lack of large-scale collective action. Hence, there is a demand for third-party intervention in order to achieve what can be described as regulated large-scale collective action. At present, there are a plethora of different types of environmental policy instruments, where some are more suitable in certain area and other more appropriate in other fields. However, the policy instruments that experts prefer and promote are not always the ones most appreciated by the public.

Research has for example shown the variation among the member states in the European Union is large, where environmental taxes are quite appreciated in some countries while they are despised in others. Furthermore, comparative research has shown that people living in societies with corrupt and inefficient public authorities demand more regulatory and punitive instruments compared to people living in less corrupt societies. The suggested explanation is that corrupt institutions are associated with low levels of trust. The public does not trust authorities and they do not trust other actors such as business actors and citizens in general, therefore the demand for certain regulatory and punitive instruments increase. People want to punish want they perceive as free-riding behavior. However, so far research has mostly focused on certain instruments and has not successfully been able disentangled the effects of different kinds of trust on the support for/acceptance of certain instruments.

Furthermore, there are other potential contextual factors that need to be investigated, such as type of political system (e.g. democratic vs. authoritarian), dependence on global trade, presence of a political authority beyond the state (e.g. the European Union), to name a few. In this research project we try to further scrutinize previous findings by studying how institutional and cultural factors explain policy preferences in different countries. The data used is a combination of cross-national surveys and data from the Citizens Panel provided by the Laboratory of Opinion Research.

Researchers (länks till nya katalogen)

Niklas Harring and Sverker Jagers, Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Andreas Nilsson, Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg and Thomas Sterner, Department of Economics, University of Gothenburg.