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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 29, 2020

The Dark Side of Policy Responsiveness: State Action on Climate Change

  • Stephen J. Chapman
From the journal The Forum


Climate change is an ever-growing problem that requires a network of policy solutions. There exists variation in state-level responses to climate change, firmly placing it within the context of state-level representation. There are various explanations for policy outcomes at the state level, including public opinion, institutional control, interest group activity, among others. With respect to climate change, another potential explanation provided by scholars for the variation in policy responses is the degree of risk posed by climate change to a particular state. However, climate change serves as a somewhat unique policy position as it is highly visible and has been a polarizing issue in American political discourse. This paper analyzes how risk, political control, and opinion affect policy responses to climate change. Employing multiple measures for state-level action on climate change as well as state-level opinion on the existence and perceived threat of climate change, this analysis theorizes that given the polarized nature of the climate change debate in the United States, public opinion on the realities of climate change and partisan control of state government influences policy outcomes more so than any level of quantified threat from climate change. The causal reasoning for this dual effect is the impact of citizen demands and overarching party ideologies. Even when controlling for wealth, energy industry activity, and political lobbying within states, findings indicate a strong relationship between citizen opinion and partisan control on state-level action on climate change, posing a challenge for combatting long-term impacts of climate change.

Corresponding author: Stephen J. Chapman, Department of Political Science, Monmouth University, 400 Cedar Avenue, Long Branch, NJ, USA, E-mail:


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Published Online: 2020-09-29

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