Climatic Change

, Volume 116, Issue 3–4, pp 523–545 | Cite as

Mapping the ideological networks of American climate politics

  • Dana R. FisherEmail author
  • Philip Leifeld
  • Yoko Iwaki


How do we understand national climate change politics in the United States? Using a methodological innovation in network analysis, this paper analyzes discussions about the issue within the US Congress. Through this analysis, the ideological relationships among speakers providing Congressional testimony on the issue of climate change are mapped. For the first time, issue stances of actors are systematically aggregated in order to measure coalitions and consensus among political actors in American climate politics in a relational way. Our findings show how consensus formed around the economic implications of regulating greenhouse gases and the policy instrument that should do the regulating. The paper is separated into three sections. First, we review the ways scholars have looked at climate change policymaking in the United States, paying particular attention to those who have looked at the issue within the US Congress. Next, we present analysis of statements made during Congressional hearings on climate change over a four-year period. Our analysis demonstrates how a polarized ideological actor space in the 109th Congress transforms into a more consensual actor landscape in the 110th Congress, which is significantly less guided by partisan differences. This paper concludes by discussing how these findings help us understand shifting positions within American climate politics and the implications of these findings.


Climate Policy Vote Share Climate Politics Climate Change Policy 110th Session 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Arimura TH, Burtraw D, Krupnick A, Palmer K (2007) U.S. climate policy developments. Resources for the Future Discussion Paper RFF DP 07-45, Washington, DC. OctoberGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnold RD (1990) The logic of congressional action. New Haven: Yale University PressGoogle Scholar
  3. Bang G, Froyn CB, Hovi J, Menz FC (2007) The United States and international climate cooperation: international “pull” versus domestic “push”. Energy Policy 35:1282–1291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baumgartner FR, Jones BD (1993) Agendas and instability in American politics. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  5. Burstein P, Hirsh CE (2007) Interest organizations, information, and policy innovation in the U.S. congress. Sociological Forum 22:174–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Christiansen AC (2003) Convergence or divergence? Status and prospects for US climate strategy. Climate Policy 3:343–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clifton BM (2004) Romancing the GOP: assessing the strategies used by the christian coalition to influence the Republican party. Party Politics 10(5):475–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. DeGregorio C (1998) Assets and access: Linking lobbyists and lawmakers in congress. In: Herrnson PS, Shaiko RG, Wilcox C (eds) The interest group connection: electioneering, lobbying, and policymaking in Washington. Chatham House Publishers, Chatham, p viii, 376 pGoogle Scholar
  9. Esterling KM (2004) The political economy of expertise. The University of Michigan Press, Ann ArborGoogle Scholar
  10. Evans PB, Jacobson HK, Putnam RD (1993) Double-edged diplomacy: International bargaining and domestic politics. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  11. Fisher DR (2004) National governance and the global climate change regime. Rowman& Littlefield Publishers, LanhamGoogle Scholar
  12. Fisher DR (2006) Bringing the material back in: understanding the US position on climate change. Sociological Forum 21:467–494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fisher DR (Forthcoming) Understanding the Relationship Between Sub-National and National Climate Change Politics in the United States: Toward a Theory of Boomerang Federalism. Environ Plann C Govern PolicyGoogle Scholar
  14. Fletcher AL (2009) Clearing the air: the contribution of frame analysis to understanding climate policy in the United States. Environmental Politics 18:800–816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gelbspan R (1997) The heat is on. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., ReadingGoogle Scholar
  16. Gormley WT Jr (1998) Witnesses for the revolution. American Politics Quarterly 26(2):174–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Harris PG (2000) Climate change and American Foreign policy. St. Martin’s Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Hoffman AJ (2011) Talking past each other? Cultural framing of skeptical and convinced logics in the climate change debate. Organization & Environment 24(1):3–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hovi J, Skodvin T (2008) Which way to US climate cooperation? Issue linkage versus a US-based agreement. Review of Policy Research 25(2):129–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jacques PJ, Dunlap RE, Freeman M (2008) The organisation of denial: conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism. Environmental Politics 17:349–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jain AK, Dubes RC (1988) Algorithms for clustering data. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  22. Jones BS (1991) State responses to global climate change. Policy Studies Journal 19:73–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jones BD, Baumgartner FR (2005) The politics of attention: How government prioritizes problems. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  24. Kingdon JW (1995) Agendas, alternatives, and public policies. HarperCollins, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Kraemer RA, Schreurs MA (2007) Federalism and environmentalism in the United States and Germany. Johns Hopkins University, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  26. Krane D (2007) The middle tier in American federalism: state government policy activism during the Bush presidency. Publius-the Journal of Federalism 37:453–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Laumann EO, Knoke D (1987) The organizational state: Social change in national policy domains. University of Wisconsin Press, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  28. Leggett J (1999) The carbon war. Allen LaneThe Penguin Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  29. Leifeld P (2012) Discourse Network Analyzer (DNA) Manual, Available at
  30. Leifeld P, Haunss S (2012) Political discourse networks and the conflict over software patents in Europe. The European Journal of Political Research 51(3):382–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lisowski M (2002) Playing the two-level game: US President Bush’s decision to repudiate the Kyoto protocol. Environmental Politics 11(4):101–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liu X, Lindquist E, Vedlitz A (2011) Explaining media and congressional attention to global climate change, 1969-2005: an empirical test of agenda-setting theory. Political Research Quarterly 64(2):405–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lutzenhiser L (2001) The contours of U.S. climate non-policy. Society and Natural Resources 14:511–523Google Scholar
  34. McCright AM, Dunlap RE (2000) Challenging global warming as a social problem: an analysis of the conservative movement’s counter-claims. Social Problems 47:499–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McCright AM, Dunlap RE (2003) Defeating Kyoto: the conservative movement’s impact on U.S. climate change policy. Social Problems 50:348–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Norgaard KM (2011) Living in denial: Climate change, emotions, and everyday life. MIT Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  37. Park HS, Liu X, Vedlitz A (2010) Framing Climate Policy Debates: science, network, and US Congress, 1976–2007. Conference Proceedings of the Policy Networks Conference 2010. Available at (Accessed 22 March 2011)
  38. Paterson M (2009) Post-hegemonic climate politics? British Journal of Politics & International Relations 11:140–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Putnam RD (1988) Diplomacy and domestic politics: the logic of two-level games. International Organization 42:427–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rabe BG (2004) Statehouse and greenhouse: the emerging politics of American climate change policy. Brookings Institution Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  41. Rabe B (2007) Environmental policy and the Bush era: the collision between the administrative presidency and state experimentation. Publius-the Journal of Federalism 37:413–431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rabe BG (2009) Second-generation climate politics in the states: Proliferation, diffusion, and regionalization. In: Selin, VanDeveer (eds) Changing climates in North American Poltiics: institutions, policymaking, and multilevel governance. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 67–86Google Scholar
  43. Rabe BG (2010) The aversion to direct cost imposition: selecting climate policy tools in the United States. Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions 23(4):583–608CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rabe B (2011) Contested federalism and American climate policy. Publius: The Journal of Federalism 41:494–521Google Scholar
  45. Rudel TK (2001) Introduction to controlling climate change: sociological perspectives. Society & Natural Resources 14:489–489Google Scholar
  46. Sabatier PA, Weible CM (2007) The advocacy coalition framework. In: Sabatier PA (ed) Theories of the policy process. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 189–220Google Scholar
  47. Scott J (2000) Social network analysis: A handbook. Sage Publications, LondonGoogle Scholar
  48. Selin H, VanDeveer SD (2007) Political Science and Prediction: What’s Next for US Climate Change Policy? Review of Policy Research 24(1):1–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Selin H, VanDeveer SD (2009) Changing climates in North American Poltiics: Institutions, policymaking, and multilevel governance. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  50. Skodvin T, Andresen S (2009) An agenda for change in U.S. climate policies? Presidential ambitions and congressional powers. International Environmental Agreements 9:263–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vasi IB (2006) Organizational environments, framing processes, and the diffusion of the program to address global climate change among local governments in the United States. Sociological Forum 21:439–466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Victor DG, Council on Foreign Relations (2004) Climate change: Debating America’s policy options. Council on Foreign Relations; Distributed by Brookings Institution Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Ward J Jr (1963) Hierarchical grouping to optimize an objective function. Journal of the American Statistical Association 58(301):236–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ward M, Wyman M, Brown K, Seth A (2008) US climate action–from the ground up: A white paper for the Presidential Climate Action Partnership. ICLEI-USA and Climate Communities, Washington DCGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and TechnologyDübendorfSwitzerland
  3. 3.Institute of Political ScienceUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  4. 4.LRNLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations