Household behaviour crowds out support for climate change policy when sufficient progress is perceived


Household actions and government policies are both necessary to mitigate the effects of climate change. However, household behaviour may crowd out public support for government action by creating the perception of sufficient progress. Here we demonstrate this crowding-out effect in public opinion using survey experiments with more than 14,000 participants in Japan. Subjects who were randomly assigned to report their energy-saving actions following the shutdown of the Fukushima power plant were less likely to support a tax increase on carbon emissions. Treatment effects were larger for subjects who had completed more actions. Further evidence suggests that the crowding-out effect may have been driven by an increase in the perceived importance of individual actions relative to government regulation and a decrease in the perceived issue importance of energy and environmental sustainability.

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Figure 1: Self-reporting household pro-environmental behaviour reduces support for environmental policy.
Figure 2: Crowding-out effect was largest for subjects who completed more household energy-saving actions.
Figure 3: Self-reporting of household behaviour increased individual importance, reduced issue importance and caused a modest boost in moral self-concept.
Figure 4: The crowding-out effect was largest for subjects who rated energy and environmental sustainability as higher in importance.


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Progress on this paper was perceived as sufficient only due to helpful feedback and support from J. Hainmueller, M. Kohno, P. Lipscy, B. Monin and M. Tomz. This research was also supported by a Japan Fund Grant from the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University and the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DGE-114747. The ideas presented in this paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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S.H.W. designed the experiments, analysed the data and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Seth H. Werfel.

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The author declares no competing financial interests.

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Werfel, S. Household behaviour crowds out support for climate change policy when sufficient progress is perceived. Nature Clim Change 7, 512–515 (2017).

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