top of page

New JOP paper on the political economy of wind power in the United States


Divisive facilities, such as wind turbines, are important for society but controversial because they often carry local costs. Elections are the most important means for citizens to express their views about divisive facilities, but the political science literature on the topic has little to say about their electoral effects. To fill the gap, we examine wind turbine construction in the United States between 2003 and 2012. An instrumental variable analysis shows that wind turbine construction generated large electoral benefits for (pro-renewables) Democratic candidates: every megawatt of additional wind power capacity over statewide trend increased the Democratic vote share in US House elections by 0.03 percentage points. This electoral shift has contributed to a pro-environmental shift in congressional roll call voting on the environment. While the result is inconsistent with naive models of retrospective voting, it accords with positive reinforcement theories on how policies endogenously create their political support.

bottom of page