Partisan Preference Disparities across Venues

Corey Lang:

Corey Lang: Professor, Graduate Program Director Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

Voter approved referendums are an important means for governments to raise funds for investments in public goods, including schools, transportation infrastructure, and land conservation. It is often the case that Republicans are less likely to vote to approve these measures (Holian and Kahn 2015, Lang and Pearson-Merkowitz 2022). It seems extremely unlikely that this disparity results from Republicans caring less about school quality or open space than Democrats. Corey Lang has put together preliminary data that combines voter registration data, housing data, and land conservation data – all from Massachusetts that he had already used or borrowed from one of his colleagues. 

The results indicate that each group is roughly equally likely to live near conserved land. Because of the amenity value of open space, houses within a quarter mile of conserved land are more expensive than similar houses further away (Irwin 2002). Thus, it appears that Republicans are equally likely as Democrats to spend money to enjoy the amenities of open space, but less likely to vote for public provision of these amenities. The broad research agenda is to 1) further document these differences in preferences across venues and 2) attempt to understand mechanisms for why. The project includes housing data, observed voting on realworld referendums, and survey data. The geographic scope of inquiry includes New England and also “purple” and “red” states where voter registration data are public, such as Ohio and North Carolina. The ideas for mechanisms to investigate are government trust, risk and uncertainty, and geographic scale of public provision. The research results will have important implications for 1) which venues reveal “true” preferences for public goods and 2) limitations of direct democracy for supplying public goods.