Climate change fuels boom in green parties in Europe
For their study, the researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW) and the University of Vienna, together with international colleagues, linked weather data on temperature and drought with Europe-wide, small-scale data on environmental attitudes and voting behavior. For this purpose, 42 Eurobarometer surveys between 2002 and 2019 for 34 European countries and the six European elections from 1994 to 2019 for 28 countries were evaluated.
The warmer, the greener
The comprehensive figures make it clear: the measurable increase in unusually high temperatures has led to increased concern about climate change and thereby contributed to the green boom in north-western Europe. "We can show that the direct experience of extreme temperatures and droughts leads to an increase in environmental awareness, which contributes to more people voting for green parties," says study author Roman Hoffmann from the Vienna Institute of Demography of the OeAW.
The extent of the effects of climate extremes on voting behavior is considerable. According to the scientists' calculations, an additional unusually warm day in each month of the year increases environmental concern and support for green parties by 0.8 percentage points. Hoffmann: "In view of the significant temperature anomalies that we have experienced in recent years, this could increasingly influence future election results."
The north is greener than the south
What is striking is that concern about climate change and other environmental problems is not distributed uniformly across Europe but varies greatly between regions. "We find that environmental awareness has increased in recent years mainly in Western and Northern Europe, while in Southern and Eastern Europe we have also seen a slight increase, but less obvious and at a lower level," explains co-author Jonas Peisker from the Department of Demography at the University of Vienna.
How climate extremes affect environmental awareness and voting behavior also varies regionally: in southern and therefore warmer regions of Europe, unusually high temperatures have less of an impact on voting than in regions with a moderate climate. "We find indications that this can be attributed to the better adaptation of these regions to a warm, dry climate, for example in the area of agriculture," Peisker says.
Economic and demographic factors also play a role in climate awareness. High-income neighborhoods are more sensitive to drought and temperature anomalies than low-income areas. In addition, the authors of the study found that regions with more agriculture, a better educated population or a higher proportion of young people are more strongly influenced by weather events.
At a glance
„Climate change experiences raise environmental concerns and promote Green voting“, Roman Hoffmann, Raya Muttarak, Jonas Peisker, Piero Stanig, Nature Climate Change, 2022