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Air Pollution Affects Decision-Making: Evidence from the Ballot Box

Luna Bellani (), Stefano Ceolotto (), Benjamin Elsner () and Nico Pestel ()
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Stefano Ceolotto: Trinity College Dublin

No 14718, IZA Discussion Papers from Institute of Labor Economics (IZA)

Abstract: Does poor air quality affect decision-making? We study this question based on elections, in which millions of people decide on the same issue on the same day in different locations. We use county-level data from 64 federal and state elections in Germany over a nineteen-year period and exploit plausibly exogenous variation in ambient air pollution within counties across election dates. Our results show that a high concentration of particulate matter (PM10) on an election day significantly affects voting behavior. An increase in the concentration of PM10 by 10μg/m3 – around two within-county standard deviations – reduces the vote share of the incumbent by 2 percentage points and increases the vote share of the established opposition by 2.8 percentage points. These are strong effects, equivalent to 4% and 7% of the respective mean vote shares. We generalize these findings by documenting similar effects with data from a weekly opinion poll and a large-scale panel survey. We provide further evidence that emotions are a likely mechanism: the survey data show that poor air quality leads to greater anxiety and unhappiness, which may reduce the support for the political status quo.

Keywords: pollution; decisions; voting (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D70 D72 D91 Q53 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 49 pages
Date: 2021-09
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ene, nep-env, nep-eur, nep-pol and nep-ure
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