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21 May 2024

Climate change could have significant impact on voter behaviour

Climate change is likely to have a significant effect on the behaviour of voters at the ballot box in the years to come, a new study has shown.

Climate Change

Researchers found that people exposed to higher than average temperatures were significantly more likely to express a preference for left-leaning political parties when surveyed and they also became more anxious about the effects of climate change.

The data also showed that the effects of higher temperatures on political preference and climate anxiety were particularly acute among older voters and persisted for up to three years. With the increasing frequency of extreme temperatures, however, researchers believe the effect may become increasingly important .

The findings were published in a new paper co-authored for the Centre for Economic Performance by Dr Maria Cotofan, Dr Karlygash Kuralbayeva and Professor Konstantinos Matakos, from the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London.

The researchers said: “Our findings reveal that a one-degree Celsius rise in regional temperature boosts the likelihood of voting for left-leaning parties by 3.4 per cent and increases climate concerns by 6 per cent of a standard deviation.

“We show that this increase in support for left-leaning parties is directly linked to the green dimension of their manifestos and using data from two decades of European elections we find that temperature fluctuations lead to more political moderation.”

For the study, researchers analysed data from the Risks that Matter Survey, a household survey capturing the views of thousands of respondents across 22 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

The survey was complemented with data on national and sub-national climate hazards, covering temperature records across 158 regions in the 22 OECD countries from 1995-2021.

The researchers found the trend towards more left-leaning political parties was largely driven by older demographics, who also demonstrated greater levels of anxiety about the effects of climate change following abnormal periods of higher temperatures.

These older demographics also displayed greater concern about the economic cost of implementing climate change policies. In contrast younger voters showed relatively little support for policies that attempted to offset the cost of climate policies.

The researchers added that tailoring measures to address the economic concerns of older voters would be a key consideration for policy-makers looking to attract their vote.

The researchers added: “Overall, our findings underscore the importance of temperature shocks for public perceptions of climate change and support for environmental action. Notably, political allegiance aligns closely with environmental policy stances, with left-leaning and more moderate parties benefiting from increased support in affected regions.

“Our research highlights the importance of temperature shocks in shaping attitudes towards climate change and green policies. Understanding the nuanced preferences of different demographic groups is crucial for effective environmental policy-making, particularly in the face of escalating climate challenges.”

In this story

Maria Cotofan

Lecturer in Economics and Policy

Karlygash Kuralbayeva

Senior Lecturer in Economics

Konstantinos  Matakos

Professor of Economics