Climate concern and environmental protection

Anne Therese Gullberg and Bernt Aardal: «Is climate change mitigation compatible with environmental protection? Exploring voter attitudes as expressed through “old” and “new” politics in Norway (Environmental Policy and Governance, 2018)

The international literature on public attitudes finds that attitudes to climate change are closely related to attitudes to environmental protection. We ask whether this conclusion also holds for Norway. Our starting point is the political science literature on “old” versus “new” politics, old politics being defined in socio‐economic left or right terms and new politics being defined in accordance with an authoritarian or libertarian dimension in which environmental protection plays an important role. Based on these two axes, Herbert Kitschelt finds a new axis—a diagonal—combining old and new divides. According to Kitschelt, voters with traditional environmental attitudes have leftist and libertarian values, while voters favouring economic growth have rightist and authoritarian values.
Using Norwegian data, we compare voters who favour traditional environmental protection and take climate change seriously with voters who only take climate change seriously. We expect that if climate change is perceived as one of many environmental threats, then the two voter groups are similar. We find that half of the voters see climate change as a big problem. Two thirds of these voters are in favour of environmental protection. However, the last third of these voters who take climate change seriously do not want greater environmental protection. Moreover, we find interesting differences between these groups. Those in the latter group have leftist and libertarian values, whereas climate‐only voters have rightist and authoritarian values. Thus the two groups of voters are dissimilar. Interestingly, this pattern corresponds to alignments along Kitschelt’s new diagonal axis for party competition.

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