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The ‘post-materialist’ value hypothesis, positing heightened concern for the environment, should predict eventual convergence in environmental policies. In the meantime, surprisingly wide variations persist, even when controlling for income levels. Is there a role for public opinion to explain better the divergences and outcomes observed in environmental policies? This paper explores a possible mechanism by which widely hypothesized income effects on policy can occur via pressure from public opinion. By building upon a median voter model of environmental policy-making and developing an extension to include voter information characteristics, we test these effects on air pollution outcomes of varying (global, regional and local) scales. The results provide evidence of significant effects, but suggest two antecedent conditions necessary for political and opinion variables to have an effect: redistributive opportunities, and credible frameworks for addressing collective action problems. The implication is that relying on democratic reform alone may not suffice to improve environmental performance if underlying collective action problems are not addressed.

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Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.

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This is the author's final manuscript. The version of record is found here:

( DOI: 10.1002/eet.518