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Challenges in Assessing Public Opinion on Economic Growth Versus Environment: Considering European and US Data

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  • Drews, Stefan
  • Antal, Miklós
  • van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M.

Abstract

The enduring scientific debate about economic growth versus the environment has recently received new impetus. Nonetheless, there is virtually unanimous support for growth in politics. This may partly be due to an assumed social consensus about the desirability of growth. Here we examine public perceptions relevant to the growth debate by using data from a large number of representative surveys conducted in Europe and the US. The main findings are: (i) a relative majority of respondents seem to believe that economic growth and environmental protection are compatible, even though a fraction of the population might have unstable opinions; (ii) when people have to choose, environmental protection is prioritized in most surveys and countries; and (iii) the public has limited factual knowledge of relevant concepts and data, such as the meaning of economic growth and past GDP growth rates. These findings are discussed and further qualified. We highlight the importance of methodological aspects such as question wording and format in the interpretation of the results and draw implications for political debate and future research on economic growth and the environment.

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  • Drews, Stefan & Antal, Miklós & van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M., 2018. "Challenges in Assessing Public Opinion on Economic Growth Versus Environment: Considering European and US Data," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 265-272.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:146:y:2018:i:c:p:265-272
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.11.006
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    1. Efi Drimili & Ζoi Gareiou & Efthimios Zervas, 2020. "Public perceptions of the concept of green growth: application in Athens, Greece, during a period of economic crisis," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 22(7), pages 6053-6076, October.
    2. Arbex, Marcelo & Batu, Michael, 2020. "What if people value nature? Climate change and welfare costs," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(C).
    3. Donatella Baiardi & Claudio Morana, 2020. "Climate change awareness: Empirical evidence for the European Union," Working Papers 426, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Feb 2021.
    4. Drews, Stefan & Savin, Ivan & van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M., 2019. "Opinion Clusters in Academic and Public Debates on Growth-vs-Environment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 141-155.
    5. Domazet, Mladen & Ančić, Branko, 2019. "Complementarity between the EJ movement and degrowth on the European semiperiphery: An empirical study," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 120-128.
    6. Konrad Gunesch, 2018. "A Critical Comparison Of Environmental Economics And Ecological Economics, Combined With The Creative Value System Of Degrowth, For A Macroeconomically Efficient And Equitable Sustainable Development," Review of Socio - Economic Perspectives 201825, Reviewsep.
    7. Tomaselli, Maria Fernanda & Sheppard, Stephen R.J. & Kozak, Robert & Gifford, Robert, 2019. "What do Canadians think about economic growth, prosperity and the environment?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 161(C), pages 41-49.

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