The role of politics and proximity in sea level rise policy salience: a study of Virginia legislators’ perceptions

Abstract

The acceleration of sea level rise (SLR) has become a threat to the stability of nation-states worldwide and associated with risks to environmental sustainability, economic infrastructure, and public health. However, from both an international and U.S. perspective, there is a lack of research examining legislative decision makers’ perceptions about policies regarding SLR. This study addresses that gap by examining how politics and proximity affects Virginia state legislators’ perceptions of the saliency of SLR. A survey of these legislators reveals their perceptions of credible sources of information, SLR-related risk, and who should take the lead to address SLR. While this study confirms other research about the effects of political party, it finds that proximity to coastal areas also greatly influences the perceived saliency of SLR. The findings from this research project enhance our understanding of the challenges inherent in addressing SLR at the state level. Finally, this study points to implications for agenda setting and suggests areas of further study regarding SLR policy at the state and local government levels.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Legislators were categorized as representing coastal districts if their constituent districts were located east of Interstate-95 (a north-state highway that, on average, is about 60 mi from Virginia’s coastlines). Legislators were also asked to characterize their district as coastal or noncoastal. There was a 75 % overlap in the I-95 and legislators’ self-categorizations. Accordingly, I-95 is used as a basis for determining coastal versus noncoastal legislators.

  2. 2.

    The response rate of 26 % may raise concerns regarding nonresponse bias. However, this study’s adequate representation from coastal and noncoastal districts, and from both the House of Delegates and the Senate, suggests minimal response bias.

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Correspondence to Burton St. John III.

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This research was funded through a Multidisciplinary Seed Fund from the Old Dominion University Research Foundation and in collaboration with the Old Dominion University Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative.

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Yusuf, JE., St. John, B. & Ash, I.K. The role of politics and proximity in sea level rise policy salience: a study of Virginia legislators’ perceptions. J Environ Stud Sci 4, 208–217 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-014-0169-9

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Keywords

  • Sea level rise
  • Climate change
  • State policy
  • Political ideology
  • Geopolitics