Overline: Ariadne Analysis
Headline: Does One Size Really Fit All? How Regional Differences in Public Opinion Can Influence Climate Policy

The energy transition is a whole-of-society challenge that extends far beyond the fields of policymaking, science, and economics. Public approval or opposition to the individual policies and projects that make up this massive undertaking can lend momentum or stall the energy transition at every turn. It is important that we understand how people view the energy transition – both at the national and regional levels. Politicians and officials in local government can benefit immensely from a clearer picture of public opinion on the ground when it comes to planning wind farm projects near communities or introducing speed limits or air quality measures. Researchers with the Ariadne project conducted two Germany-wide panel surveys to gauge approval of 26 climate protection measures at the regional level, revealing both geographic differences and shifts in public opinion over time.

The approval of citizens allows the energy transition to gain momentum.
The approval of citizens allows the energy transition to gain momentum. Shutterstock/riekephotos

The researchers' findings highlight regional differences in the approval of individual measures to protect the climate, with a clear divergence between urban and rural populations and between eastern and western Germany. For example, public approval of the coal phase-out differs by as much as 60 percentage points between different counties, highlighting the capacity of individual climate measures to polarize the public. However, the survey also revealed gains in public approval over time in regions where wind and solar power capacities have been expanded. In general, public opinion favours subsidies and infrastructure development over bans and tax increases.

The team of researchers from the Hertie School, the Research Institute for Sustainability - Helmholtz Centre Potsdam (RIFS) and RWI - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research used two nationally representative surveys as their data basis: The Social Sustainability Barometer of the Energy and Transport Transition and the Ariadne Heat & Housing Panel. Their research measures the average approval across the population of 26 climate policies and measures in the energy, transportation, and heating sectors at the state, county, and local levels between 2017 and 2021 using a multilevel regression and poststratification model. An online dashboard offers detailed insights into the approval ratings of individual climate protection instruments at the regional level. A better understanding of public opinion at various levels can help to improve the development and design of communications and dialogue campaigns targeting specific groups and issues.

Publication (available in German only):

Ariadne-Analyse: Geographische und zeitliche Unterschiede in der Zustimmung zu Klimaschutzpolitik in Deutschland

Press contact:

Maria Bader, Communications manager „Ariadne“, bader [at] mcc-berlin [dot] net