DONDENA Seminar - Erik Voeten

Erik Voeten
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The Energy Transition and Political Polarization Along Occupational Lines: Evidence from Germany

“The Energy Transition and Political Polarization Along Occupational Lines: Evidence from Germany”

SPEAKER: Erik Voeten (Georgetown University)


The green transition creates economic winners and losers. To what extent has the increased salience of the energy transition resulted in political polarization along occupational lines? We examine this question in the context of Germany, a country that has adopted some of the most far-reaching energy transition policies and that also has substantial employment in heavy emissions (``brown'') occupations. The far right AfD started campaigning as the only party opposing energy transition policies in 2016. We first show that the AfD gained significantly and the Greens lost in communities with larger shares of employment in brown occupations after the 2013 elections. We then use individual-level panel data to show that since 2016, individuals in brown occupations have become significantly more likely to identify with the far right. These findings are not (fully) attributable to compositional effects in the sample or simultaneous political changes, most notably the 2015 migrant crisis or the loss in manufacturing employment. This suggests that voters in brown occupations have shifted towards the far right for concerns over present and future energy transition policies.


Erik Voeten is the Peter F. Krogh Professor of Geopolitics and Justice in World Affairs at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and Government Department. He is the director of the Mortara Center for International Studies. Professor Voeten’s research examines the role of international institutions and law in international affairs and, more recently, the political economy of the energy transition. He has published in numerous academic journals, including the American Journal of International Law, the American Journal of Political Science, the American Political Science Review, and International Organization. He is a past editor of the academic journals International Organization and Research and Politics. He is one of the editors of the new site Good Authority and previously edited the Monkey Cage Washington Post blog. He teaches classes on international relations theory, international institutions, and statistical methods. His book, Ideology and International Institutions appeared with Princeton University Press in January 2021.


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