Is It Easy Being Green?: European Green Parties and Environmental Policy Development
Mentor: Dr. Christina Xydias
Department: Humanities and Social Sciences
European Green parties began as a social movement largely focused on protest against the construction of nuclear power plants in the 1970s. This social movement coalesced into formal political parties in numerous countries in this same decade, and Green party candidates were first elected into the European Parliament (the supranational legislative house of the European Union) in 1984. It is well established that environmental policies must be at least regional, and ideally global, to have impact on large-scale environmental issues such as global warming. Thus the entrance of Green parties into formal politics introduced a crucial conduit for environmental movements’ concerns into policy-making. This project aims to trace the relationship between growing environmentalism among European voters and empowerment of the Greens in the European Parliament (measured as their seat share). One of the challenges in testing hypotheses about electoral politics (the rules, processes, and outcomes of elections) at the regional level of the European Union (EU) is that the parameters of analysis have changed substantially since the first round of direct parliamentary elections in 1979. Fundamental features of the EU ranging from its membership (which has increased from just eight countries to 28) to the substantive purview of the EU (which has expanded from a relatively short list of economic issues to a wide range of social, political, and economic issues) have changed so much that it might be more accurate to describe it as an entirely different political system. In short, there is so much variation that it is difficult to gain statistical leverage on even basic questions. Available longitudinal models of EU electoral politics are at best unbalanced. An REU-funded student in the summer of 2014 will begin by building familiarity with both the history and development of Green Parties in the European context and more generally the study of elections. The student will then join Professor Xydias in two efforts: 1) collection of party-level elections data 1979-2009; and 2) development of better longitudinal analytical techniques for these data. The student will take primary responsibility for maintenance of the database. Ideally, s/he will build upon existing skills in statistics, however basic. S/he will finish the summer with impressive statistical tools for the analysis of longitudinal data, and with deep knowledge of the Greens in Europe as it relates to environmental policy development. This background will make her/him competitive for a wide range of occupations and courses of study in social analysis. In sum, the REU student’s work will improve our understanding of the forces driving environmental policymaking in comparative political context. This project will directly contribute to the third focus area of Clarkson’s REU program on sustainability: the transformation of social policy: infrastructure, energy, and environment.