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How Elections Matter: Theory and Evidence from Environmental Policy


  • John A. List
  • Daniel M. Sturm


In this paper we explore to what extent secondary policy issues are influenced by electoral incentives. We develop a political agency model in which a politician decides on both a frontline policy issue, such as the level of public spending, and a secondary policy issue, such as environmental policy. The model shows under which conditions the incumbent finds it worthwhile to manipulate the secondary policy to attract additional votes to his platform. We test the predictions of the model using state-level panel data on Gubernatorial environmental policy choices over the years 1960-2000. In contrast to the popular view that choices on secondary policy instruments are largely determined by lobbying, we find strong effects of electoral incentives on environmental policy.

Suggested Citation

  • John A. List & Daniel M. Sturm, 2004. "How Elections Matter: Theory and Evidence from Environmental Policy," NBER Working Papers 10609, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10609
    Note: PE EEE

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H72 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Budget and Expenditures

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