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Race and Environmental Voting in the U.S. Congress

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Objective. This article examines long-term trends in the environmental voting behavior in Congress and attempts to identify the factors that account for racial differences in voting patterns. Methods. Hypotheses about the various possible influences on environmental voting behavior are tested using longitudinal analyses and path analysis techniques. Results. Findings indicate African American members of Congress have been consistently more supportive of proenvironment legislation than either Republican or Democrat colleagues from 1981 to 1998. The data further suggest that much of these overall differences are explained by an especially large racial gap in proenvironmental voting among members from the South. Although such a gap among members from outside the South is eliminated by controlling for ideology and other variables, it remains substantial among Southern members. Conclusions. Based on the strong and consistent support for environmental legislation by African American members of Congress in the past, we expect significant racial differences in environmental voting to endure. Although results suggest that ideology plays a partial role in explaining such differences, future research will be needed to identify the reasons for the especially large racial gap in proenvironmental voting among members from the South. Given the growth in their numbers, their relatively safe seats, and their potential to chair important committees as they gain seniority, we expect African American legislators to play an increasingly important role in shaping and deciding the fate of national environmental policy in the future.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Michigan

Publication date: March 1, 2002


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