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USA Today Reports on Economists' Study

Weather Catastrophes Influence Legislative Support for Environment

By Vige Barrie  |  Contact Ann Owen
Posted January 4, 2012
Tags Ann Owen Economics Emily Conover Environmental Politics Environmental Studies Faculty Hamilton In the News Julio Videras Public Policy Stephen Wu

An article titled “Study: Does enduring extreme weather make you vote liberal?,” appearing on the USA Today website on Dec. 30, reported on a study written by four Hamilton economists. Henry Platt Bristol Professor of Economics Ann Owen, Assistant Professor of Economics Emily Conover and Associate Professors of Economics Julio Videras and Stephen Wu co-authored the study, “Heat Waves, Droughts, and Preferences for Environmental Policy,”  (forthcoming issue of Journal of Policy Analysis and Management). The professors found that people who experience a weather catastrophe are much more inclined to support legislation about the environment, regardless of political affiliation and even when it restricts personal freedoms.

The authors noted that the study’s results “are consistent with the idea that experiencing extreme weather causes individuals to become more aware of the issue of global warming, and increases their perception of the risk of global warming.” The findings were based on an online survey of about 2,500 Americans, conducted in August 2009.

The article reported that, “Although the survey focused mainly on heat waves and droughts, and was conducted in the summer, Owen says their findings can be extrapolated to any type of severe weather event, including blizzards and tropical storms. So, potentially, study authors report that weather disasters may hurt conservative candidates more than liberal candidates, because of their positions on environmental policy.”

Other findings reported in the article included:

  • People who consult more news sources and environmentalists are less likely to have their attitudes toward global warming changed by current weather conditions.
  • Experiencing extreme weather has the greatest impact on respondents who are less aware or knowledgeable about global warming.

The Weather Channel also reported on the study on Jan. 2.

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