What moderates the attitude-behavior link when voting on renewable energy policies? The roles of problem perception and policy design

Stadelmann-Steffen, Isabelle; Thalmann, Philippe (23 August 2018). What moderates the attitude-behavior link when voting on renewable energy policies? The roles of problem perception and policy design (Unpublished). In: ECPR General Conference. Hamburg, Germany. 22.08.2018-25.08.2018.

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In the wake of the transition from fossil and nuclear energy systems to a renewable energy age, the question of how to politically implement effective instruments and policies is a challenge in many industrialized countries. Whereas the need for a more sustainable energy production in the context of environmental and climate change is strongly acknowledged, the support for effective policies among political actors and the public is much more limited. This observation has been extensively discussed in the literature referring to the so-called value-action gap (Bell, Gray, & Haggett, 2005; Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002), or to the concept of social acceptance, i.e., suggesting that preferences for renewable energy technologies do not necessarily imply support for specific policies and projects (Dermont, Ingold, Kammermann, & Stadelmann-Steffen, 2017; Wüstenhagen, Wolsink, & Bürer, 2007). This is the starting point of this paper aiming at a better understanding of the link between pro-environmental and climate change attitudes and according behavior. More precisely, this paper focuses on citizens’ support of renewable energy policies at the ballot box and departs from the assumption that citizens’ voting behavior on these policy proposals is the result of multidimensional decisions. In other words, a policy proposal consists of various elements some of which an individual may support while rejecting others. Voters weight these pros and cons against each other in order to come to a “no” or “yes” decision. In a recent contribution, we have shown that the costs related to renewable energy policies are the crucial hurdle to popular support. Moreover, given that many citizens do not believe in the efficacy of and need for (environmental) policy measures there is not clear “benefit” that could compensate for these costs in individual benefit-cost considerations (Stadelmann-Steffen & Dermont, 2018). In this paper, I go a step further and ask how individual environmental and climate change attitudes affect this multidimensional decision making on renewable energy policies. Following these considerations, I present results based on a large-scale representative survey from Switzerland. A forced-choice paired conjoint analysis (Hainmueller, Hopkins, & Yamamoto, 2014) allows to evaluate how specific aspects of policy proposals influence individual support or rejection of a whole proposal. Moreover, interactions between these policy characteristics and individual environmental and climate change attitudes are estimated to analyze what elements of these policies jeopardize the link between these attitudes and according political behavior. Although the proposed study focuses on Switzerland and cannot necessarily be generalized to other contexts, I argue that the expected results are relevant beyond the Swiss case. Policies to promote renewable energy production and to reduce energy consumption vary between nations and across sub-national jurisdictions, but they are often based on “universal” economic models (e.g., environmental steering taxes and their effect on energy consumption) and generally consist of rather complex bundles of policy measures. Hence, knowing more about how these aspects interact with individual attitudes and behavior provides important insights on the attitude-behavior link beyond the case of Switzerland.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Political Science

UniBE Contributor:

Stadelmann, Isabelle


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science




Isabelle Stadelmann

Date Deposited:

20 Jun 2019 13:30

Last Modified:

28 Oct 2019 19:21





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