Do Social Movements Matter?


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Invited lecture at the 2012 Environmental Defense Fund Science Symposium.

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  • I’m going to briefly introduce a cluster of studies designed to asses whether the environmental movement matters for various outcomes, and then focus on my portion of the research. Key Questions: Do Movements Affect Social Problems? What Are the Mechanisms? Are Movement Effects Contingent and Complex?
  • Purpose : to examine the political processes that influence environmental outcomes, specifically air pollution. A time-series regression analysis of political factors that influenced yearly emissions of three DVs: NOx emissions, PM-10 emissions, and emissions of an index of SO2, CO, and VOCs. The time period for this analysis was 1959-1998 .
  • 3 measures of air pollution, based on 5 of the 6 EPA criteria pollutants : Index of SO 2 , CO, and VOCs (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.904) Nitrogen Oxides Particulate Matter smaller than 10 micrometers -SO2, CO, and VOCs are combined into an index because they follow a very similar pattern over time . The index has a surprisingly high Cronbach’s alpha, which indicates that those 3 pollutants are very closely correlated and analyzing them in an index is statistically sound. It also implies a possible theoretical connection, and could indicate similar driving factors. -The other 2 measures of air pollution are NOx and PM-10, and data for all 5 are provided by the EPA. -Note: the analysis runs from 1959-1998 , and the length of time is constrained by data availability . Patterns over time : this graph shows those patterns of variation around the mean. Index: rises until around 1970 when the EPA was created, and then declines after that. NOx rises and then plateaus at around 1980. Interestingly, during the 1980’s there were some significant rollbacks in enforcement of the Clean Air Act. PM-10 mostly declines throughout this time period, until it reaches a threshold and plateaus in the mid 1980’s.
  • In addition to economic and other controls , I analyzed the influence of several political processes. Movement Actions : -Environmental movement actions include a variety of tactics such as protests, letter writing campaigns, lobbying, litigation, and these are hypothesized to reduce air pollution. Environmental movement actions were coded from the NYT Index. -The environmental movement is measured as all social movement actions, yearly Political Opportunities : -These enable more effective action to be taken. Ex: political allies -The analysis tested several types of political opportunities, including democratic control of the federal government (all 3 branches). Others were not significant.
  • Policy : -Previous research is not conclusive because it has not distinguished between effective versus symbolic policy. Symbolic policy can make politicians look like they’re doing something without having any real-world effects. Policy on Air Pollution could be a mixture of effective and symbolic policy, so it is important to measure the quality of air pollution policy to determine its effects. -Implementation of policy could help explain earlier mixed results since even effective policy that is poorly funded or poorly implemented is unlikely to have beneficial results. -Air pollution policy was coded based on 3 criteria : whether enforcement power were built into the legislation, broad vs. narrow scope, and whether $ was earmarked into the bill (CAAA coded separately) -Implementation of policy was measured based on the EPA budget, and prior to 1970 it was based on money earmarked into air pollution legislation . Media Attention : -Media attention is related to the theory of political agenda-setting , when some issues are considered to be more important than others at different times. If an issue is on the political agenda then public attention is focused on that issue and politicians tend to take action to address it. -Media attention is used to measure whether the environment is on the political agenda. -Media attention is measured by magazine articles on the environment, listed in the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature . Methodology : a very conservative analysis. Some results may be insignificant because the design is likely to miss effects that are significant in the real world, due to features of the statistics. Significant results are strengthened by this
  • Coefficients are very small due the mathematical details of the model, but this does not indicate a small effect. I didn ’ t include coefficients here, because they don ’ t really tell us anything about the size of the effect. However, knowing which factors have an effect (of any size) is nonetheless useful. -Overall, the environmental movement has a significant negative influence on NOx emissions, but only when interacting with either democratic unity or air pollution policy . (I.e. the interactions are significant, as are the movement effects in the interaction models). -Media attention also has a direct effect.
  • The only significant factor that influences the emissions of these 3 pollutants was media attention (none of the control factors were significant)
  • For PM-10, the combined influence of environmental movement actions and media attention has greater explanatory power than media attention alone (although media attention was significant by itself). When the interaction is included in the model, the interaction effect is significant but the two factors individually are not, indicating a truly combined effect.
  • Surprisingly, policy has no direct effect on any of these pollutants, and the funding for policy implementation is also not influential. Although policy and implementation are not influential on their own, the interaction between policy and environmental movement to influence NOx , shows that the environmental movement can help enforce policy .
  • The environmental movement was effective at reducing 2 of the three measures of air pollution, but only under specific conditions . Political opportunities appear to be very important in helping the environmental movement achieve at least some of its goals. In other words to achieve real environmental improvements, it is crucial to engage in an explicitly political strategy , addressing electoral politics directly to both create and take advantage of political opportunities .
  • The only consistently influential factor was media attention, which provides strong support for the importance of setting the political agenda . Media attention brings environmental problems to the attention of the public and policy-makers, which helps reduce emissions. The mechanism for this effect has not yet been explored , but is worth pursuing in future research. As a final note: air pollution cannot be treated as a homogenous concept when examining social or political drivers. Theories of social impact on the environment sometimes assume generalizability across different pollutants, but even looking only at air pollution the results are not generalizeable across pollutants . This holds true for both economic and political factors, and social theories of environmental impact must address the differences between various types of impact in order to remain empirically useful.
  • Public belief that climate change was a threat peaked in 2006-2007 when Democrats and Republicans in Congress showed the most agreement on the issue.
  • Weather does NOT influence public concern for CC. Scientific information on CC has an impact but this disappears when political action is taken into account. Thus, producing more scientific information is likely to have a marginal effect. Dramatic movement advocacy efforts appear to have some impact (i.e. An Inconvenient Truth). Difficult to reproduce. Elite Cues : Political action matters the most ! –Pro CC action statements by Democrats has a significant and positive influence on CC concern while Anti-Enviro voting by Republicans has a significant and negative effect ( this effect is twice as large as the Dem effect !). Elite cues : when political leaders are divided on the issue of climate change, the national public is also unable to agree on a position. Second largest factor is economics (unemployment, GDP). When the economy is good, people care more about CC, bad…less.
  • Real gross domestic product is included to control for linear or quadratic economic effects, but I won’t be discussing those today because it has been well-studied in previous literature. The only significant effect for the index is media attention.
  • Media attention also has a significant negative impact on NOx emissions.
  • There are two significant interaction effects for NOx, and these seem to support the theory that political opportunities are important for the environmental movement. The adjusted r-squared for the model including either one of the interactions is higher than the adjusted r-squared of the base model alone (which was 0.47). This indicates that the model with the interactions explains a larger proportion of the yearly variation in air pollutant emissions than the model without the interaction.
  • The effect of media attention is the only consistently influential factor across all three measures of air pollution, support the theory of political agenda-setting.
  • Note: Similar to NOx, the adjusted r-squared for the interaction is much higher than the base model alone (which was 0.198). So the PM-10 model with the interaction has greater explanatory power than the model without the interaction. For PM-10, media attention has a direct effect, but it explains more of the variation in PM-10 emissions when interacting with movement activity.
  • Do Social Movements Matter?

    1. 1. Do Social Movements Matter? J. Craig Jenkins – Ohio State UniversityAnna C. McCreery – Ohio State University Robert J. Brulle – Drexel University Jason T. Carmichael – McGill University
    2. 2. Do Social Movements Matter?Cluster of studies on whether the environmental movement mattersKey Questions: Do movements affect social problems? What are the mechanisms? Are movement effects contingent and complex?
    3. 3. What drives environmental public opinion?Public perceptions: is climate change seen as a threat?Weather Extremes?Media Attention?Science Information?Elites?Movement Actions?
    4. 4. What drives environmental policy adoption?Movement Tactics? Protest vs. Lobbying?Movement Organization Founding? Organizational Instability?Public Opinion?Political Allies?Elections?
    5. 5. What drives environmental outcomes?Media attention?Policy? Implementation?Movement actions? Political opportunities for the movement?
    6. 6. Political Drivers of Air Pollution in the U.S.: A Time-Series Analysis (1959-1998) Organization and Environment 2010 Dr. Anna C. McCreery The Ohio State UniversityMcCreery, A.C. 2010. “Media Attention, Political Processes, and Air Pollution in the U.S.: A Time-Series Analysis (1959-1998)” Organization and Environment 23(3): 255-270.
    7. 7. What Affects Air Pollution?Statistical Analysis of pollutant emissions: NOx PM-10 Index of SO2, CO, VOCs
    8. 8. Air Pollution Trends
    9. 9. Driving FactorsEnvironmental movement actionsPolitical opportunities
    10. 10. Driving FactorsAir pollution policy and implementationMedia attention
    11. 11. Significant Effects Democratic ControlEnvironmental + Movement - NOx Emissions Actions + Air Pollution - Policy Media Attention
    12. 12. Significant Effects: SO2, CO, VOCsMedia Attention - SO2, CO, & VOCs
    13. 13. Significant Effects: PM-10Environmental Movement Actions - PM-10 Emissions Media Attention
    14. 14. ConclusionsPolicy is ineffective on its own Enforcement is crucial Environmental movement can help enforce good policy
    15. 15. ConclusionsEnvironmental movement must rely on political opportunities to be effective Democrats in government provide opportunities
    16. 16. ConclusionsMedia Attention & the Political Agenda It’s not just public opinion: Public attention is also important Agenda-setting activities (like publicity) can help achieve real results
    17. 17. Acknowledgements Funding & Resources Ohio State University Dept. of Sociology Colleagues Ohio State University EnvironmentalDr. J. Craig Jenkins Science Graduate ProgramDr. Robert Brulle The Fay Graduate Fellowship Fund inDr. Jason Carmichael Environmental Sciences NSF Grant #SES-0455215, “Civil Society & the Environment”
    18. 18. AppendixPublic opinion about climate changeEnvironmental PolicyEnvironmental outcomes
    19. 19. U.S. Climate Change Threat Index • 14 questions, 74 surveys • 84,086 respondents 2002-2010
    20. 20. Major Findings: Public Opinion Usual Weather Events NS Availability of +Scientific information Public Concern overMedia Coverage + Climate Change +/- Elite Cues +/- Advocacy +/- Macro-Economic Factors
    21. 21. % Victory on Environmental Bills, Senate & House, 1971-2004% Pro-Environmental outcomes Senate Year (1970-2002) House
    22. 22. Major Findings for the Senate Protest (NS) Lobbying (NS)Organization Founding (NS) % Bill VictoriesOrganizational Instability(-) Democratic Control (+) Public Opinion (NS) # Bills Monitored (+) Election Year (NS)
    23. 23. Base Variables CoefficientReal GDP / capita 153.90Real GDP / Capita, squared -276384 Results:Democratic Unity -0.073Congressional Hearings 9.79 E-04 Index of(Logged) SO2 COCorporate Taxes -1.66 E-02Media Attention (Logged) -6.18 E-04 * & VOCsAir Pollution Policy -3.64 E-03Implementation Funding 0.320Movement Actions 3.72 E-03 n = 38Constant -6.106 *** p < 0.001,Adjusted R-squared 0.110 ** p < 0.01, * p < 0.05; one-tailedDurbin-Watson D-statistic 1.705
    24. 24. Base Variables CoefficientReal GDP / capita 102.45 *Real GDP / Capita, squared -207073 **GDP & GDP squared F-Test for **joint significance (P > F) Results:Democratic Unity -0.038Congressional Hearings (Logged) 5.94 E-04 NOxCorporate Taxes 1.16 E-03Media Attention (Logged) -2.05 E-04 *Air Pollution Policy -3.93 E-03Implementation Funding 0.080 n = 38Movement Actions 1.88 E-03Constant -1.436 *** p < 0.001,Adjusted R-squared 0.470 ** p < 0.01,Durbin-Watson D-statistic 1.618 * p < 0.05; one-tailed
    25. 25. Results: NOx Interactions Interaction Adjusted Main Variable Coef. R2 Effects Coef.Movement actions * -4.30 E-04 ** 0.560 Movement 2.15 E-03 aaAir Pollution Policy Actions Air Pollution -3.04 E-03 PolicyMovement actions * -2.51 E-03 * 0.512 Movement 1.44 E-03 aDemocratic Unity Actions Democratic -5.18 E-02 Unity *** p < 0.001, ** p < 0.01, * p < 0.05; one-tailed aaa p < 0.001, aa p < 0.01, a p < 0.05; two-tailed.
    26. 26. Base Variables CoefficientReal GDP / capita 60.92Real GDP / Capita, squared -134973 *GDP & GDP squared F-Test forjoint significance (P > F) Results:Democratic Unity 0.030Congressional Hearings (Logged) 2.55 E-04 PM-10Corporate Taxes 8.81 E-04Media Attention (Logged) -1.96 E-04 *Air Pollution Policy -4.40 E-03Implementation Funding 0.184Movement Actions 5.96 E-04 n = 38Constant -3.555 * *** p < 0.001,Adjusted R-squared 0.198 ** p < 0.01, * p < 0.05; one-tailedDurbin-Watson D-statistic 1.762
    27. 27. Results: PM-10 Interactions Interaction Adjusted Main Variable Coef. R2 Effects Coef.Movement actions * -7.09 E-06 ** 0.330 Movement 1.12 E-03Media Attention Actions Media -4.85 E-05 Attention *** p < 0.001, ** p < 0.01, * p < 0.05; one-tailed