The Role of Perceived Justice, Political Ideology, and Individual or Collective Framing in Support for Environmental Policies

Abstract

Effectively addressing environmental challenges such as climate change will require adopting policy measures that have some impact on collective human behavior. The present research examined attitudes toward different environmental policies, specifically focusing on the role of perceived justice. Justice was measured in two ways: as an assessment of the fairness of a particular policy and as a general tendency to endorse statements related to environmental justice. Because justice judgments can be context specific, policies were presented in four conditions, in a 2 × 2 design manipulating the type of impact described, ecological or societal, and the level of focus, individual or collective. The roles of political ideology and environmentalism were also investigated. Results from an online sample of 162 US residents showed that non-coercive policies, overall, were rated as more acceptable. Environmental justice statements were strongly endorsed, and justice in both its specific and general forms was a determinant of policy acceptance. In particular, ratings of the fairness of specific policies were a stronger determinant of acceptability than perceived effectiveness of the policy. Type of impact had little effect, but policies tended to be rated as more acceptable when they were framed in terms of the collective rather than the individual. Although a liberal ideology was associated with acceptance of environmental policies in general and with endorsement of environmental justice, controlling for endorsement of environmental justice eliminated the effect of political ideology in most, but not all, cases. Implications for policy support are discussed.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    A principal components analysis of acceptability ratings, conducted to look for underlying dimensions, identified two factors with eigenvalues over 1.0, explaining 56.4% of variance. The first factor loaded on all the policies except Information and Encourage and the second loaded on those two. This seems to reflect the important distinction between “push” and “pull” policies, but could also be interpreted as distinguishing between policies that require the exercise of governmental power versus those that could be easily undertaken by a nonprofit group.

  2. 2.

    A principal components analysis of the justice principles identified two factors with eigenvalues over 1.0, explaining 57.6% of the variance. However, they were not easily interpretable. The first factor explained most of the variance and loaded on all the items, most strongly with “everyone should bear their share of the costs” and “people should buy and use less.” Factor scores were positively correlated with liberalism and environmentalism. This factor may emphasize the need to sacrifice to protect the environment. The second factor loaded most strongly on “everyone is entitled to strive for a comfortable standard of living” and “environmental protection should be the responsibility of business”, but was also high on individual responsibility. There were no significant correlations between scores on this factor and other variables measured.

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Correspondence to Susan Clayton.

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All procedures performed in this research were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Clayton, S. The Role of Perceived Justice, Political Ideology, and Individual or Collective Framing in Support for Environmental Policies. Soc Just Res 31, 219–237 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11211-018-0303-z

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Keywords

  • Public policy
  • Environmental issues
  • Climate change
  • Environmental concern
  • Justice
  • Political ideology
  • Identity