Panel Paper: Examining the Role of Nimbyism in Public Acceptance of Energy Infrastructure

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Jackson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sanya Carley1, David Konisky1 and Stephen Ansolabehere2, (1)Indiana University, (2)Harvard University

This paper addresses the question of whether public acceptance of energy infrastructure projects is hampered by not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) attitudes. Scholars for decades have examined the role of NIMBYism in this domain but the literature still has several shortcomings: 1) studies rarely consider the full range of possible reasons for NIMBY sentiments; 2) NIMBYism is often operationalized poorly; and 3) few studies employ a comparative framework across location and project types. Our paper seeks to improve upon all three of these previous limitations and lend valuable insights about the role of NIMBYism in public acceptance of energy infrastructure.

In this analysis, we employ data collected from a series of original public opinion surveys of the American public conducted in Fall 2017. We designed these surveys to enable a clear testing of the role of geographic proximity to an individual’s level of acceptance of the project. We analyze attitudes toward 14 currently proposed energy projects in six U.S. states: 4 pipelines; 4 electricity transmission lines; 1 liquefied natural gas export terminal; and 1 solar, 1 wind, 1 natural gas, 1 hydropower, and 1 nuclear power plant. The broad scope of our study enables us to evaluate NIMBYism toward specific projects, as well as to make direct comparisons across project types. We measure NIMBY consistently across each project, leveraging multiple survey items and a unique sampling strategy to fully understand the effect of NIMBYism on acceptance of energy infrastructure.

We use a series of regression models to identify the effects of NIMBY attitudes on public acceptance of energy infrastructure. To isolate the role of NIMBY from other factors, the regression models control for individual-level characteristics that might shape energy infrastructure attitudes, such as political ideology and partisan affiliation, income and education, and other demographics.

This analysis makes significant contributions to literatures in public opinion, energy policy, and U.S. environmental politics, and has important practical implications for stakeholders and policymakers as the United States continues along its energy transition path.