Red states, green laws: Ideology and renewable energy legislation in the United States

David J. Hess, Quan D. Mai, Kate Pride Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


We develop a novel, mixed methods approach to examine the relationship between political ideology and support for renewable energy and energy efficiency (REEE) policies. Through qualitative analysis of interviews with state-government legislators in the U.S., we show that when legislators evaluate and justify their support for and opposition to different types of renewable energy and energy efficiency (REEE) policies, they distinguish bills based on frames that are related to ideological differences (e.g., tax decreases, government efficiency, regulation, mandates, government spending). In turn the qualitative distinctions among bills are associated with quantitative differences in levels of support and success for the policies. Using data from a longitudinal analysis of 188 major state-government laws passed from 2004 to 2014 and a cross-sectional set of 709 passed and unpassed laws from 2011 to 2012, we show that REEE policies configured as mandates (e.g., renewable portfolio standards) have consistently lower levels of support than for similar REEE policies configured as tax reductions, reduction of government waste by increasing building efficiency, authorization of local government action, and regulatory reduction. Thus, via both quantitative and qualitative analysis, we show that there are important ideology-associated differences in REEE policy that point to opportunities for more successful policy design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-28
Number of pages10
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Energy efficiency
  • Political ideology
  • Renewable energy
  • State governments


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