Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Partisanship on the Environment

The chart above summarizes the environmental votes of members of the House of Representatives in the 112th Congress.  Specifically, the x-axis is the score on environmental votes according to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV).  The red curve then shows the percentage (on the y-axis) of all Republican representatives who reached that score (on the x-axis) or less.  The blue curve shows the percentage of all Democratic representatives who had at least that score.

For the purposes of this post, I take the LCV score as a reasonable proxy for overall commitment to the environment by legislators - readers are invited to critique it in comments.  The conclusions from the data are perhaps unsurprising:
  • Democrats tend to be pro-environment and Republicans tend to be anti-environment.
  • The House of Representatives is extremely polarized with the median Democrat having around a 90% LCV score, while the median Republican has around a 10% score.
  • There is a small cross-over, with a small minority of Republicans having half-decent scores (up to  Christopher Smith of New Jersey with a 60% score).  Likewise there are a minority of Democrats with poor scores (down to Jane Harman of California with an 11% score).
  • The Republicans are more tightly clustered than the Democrats.  The Republican average is 11% with a standard deviation of 9% while the Democrat average is 87% (a little further from the extreme end) with a standard deviation of 17% (almost twice as large as the Republican spread).
Needless to say, this is an extremely discouraging political environment for actually solving the very serious environmental problems we face.


jhm said...

To my mind, this is another artifact of the pervasive use of the filibuster in the Senate. When pols, even in the House, know for a fact that the bill, or amendment, in question will never pass, it makes it easier for them to cast votes on the extremes (by which I do mean the high LOCV rating makes one extreme). I suspect that GOPers would probably be just as bad regardless, but that Dems would likely fair worse if they were casting votes for actual policy changes.

Seth said...

My guess is that similar graphs constructed from a lot of other Congressional issue ratings would have a very similar shape (with some of the x-axes reversed).

The political challenge is to get the topic of climate change (or some suitably renamed proxy issue) out of the partisan sniping zone.

One potential vehicle for this would be a VAT -- for example observe Bruce Bartlett's account of his own evolution on this issue here.

How is the VAT a potential proxy for climate change? Because the fine print could be engineered to target carbon intensive 'value adds' a bit extra. Or not. It's quite possible that a consumption-based tax would almost automatically function as a bit of a carbon tax. But one could tinker a bit with incidence over time to make it more of one. (And of course the regressive tendency of the tax could be addressed via rebating.)

cbw said...

I suspect the reality is just the opposite of what you stated. The GOP (which controls the house) is passing bills that they know will never get past the senate or the president. But they can say to their constituents (and their financial backers) that they are trying to cut the budget and deregulate industry and all the other things they've promised. And it gives them something to give back in real budget negotiations, if those ever happen.