Political Identity Rules: Support of Renewable Energy Jobs and Attitudes on Soil Conservation in Northeastern Ohio

April 5, 2021   /  

Name: Leah Jorn
Major: Environmental Studies
Minor: Political Science
Advisors: Dr. Erum Haider, Dr. Matt Mariola (second reader)

The purpose of this study was to look at the support of a proposed Act and renewable energy jobs as it varied with endorsement from elite Republicans. This was tested across political groups but mainly focuses on Republican responses. I hypothesized that with elite endorsement Republican approval would increase for both the Act and renewable energy jobs. This study also focuses on attitudes of local farmers on soil conservation and how Republican values and identity politics affect this. These questions were studied through both a survey of approximately 450 people and archival work. The results indicate that elite endorsement did not increase support for either, rather that Democrats and Independents pushed support for the Act even with Republican endorsement. While endorsement does not increase support, within the sample, support for both was relatively high. Both the Act and jobs are predictable by political identification, which is also a stronger predictor than elite endorsement. The archival research found that racial identity politics catalyze political beliefs already held by many local farmers which intensifies their desire to not have farming be governed, which includes how they treat their soil.

Leah will be online to field comments on April 16:
noon-2pm EDT (PST 9-11am, Africa/Europe: early evening) and 4-6 pm EDT (PST 1-3pm, Africa/Europe: late evening)

29 thoughts on “Political Identity Rules: Support of Renewable Energy Jobs and Attitudes on Soil Conservation in Northeastern Ohio”

  1. I loved seeing how your project came together, Leah, after hearing about it in our class during fall semester. Congrats!

  2. Yay Leah! Congrats! This is such an awesome study and I really like how you incorporated your minor into it. You’re a boss!

  3. Super cool study Leah! I loved being able to see you work so hard on your research!

  4. I very much enjoyed reading your paper. I liked your multidisciplinary approach – soil science, psychology, political identity, and racial identity research/theory. I also liked your combined methodological approach – survey and archival work. I learned a lot and found your use of the SDT compelling (this was a new theory for me). I also enjoyed learning about the Ohio farm history, especially the strong culture of state/farm separation – I was not aware of this. I especially enjoyed your review of the Ohio archival history since we have relatives that farmed in OH in the 1800s (probably around 1830-1852)! As you noted, soil conservation has huge potential to mitigate effects of climate change and you connected this to the importance of job creation in the renewable energy sector and the need to understand how farmers make decisions around these issues. As they say in Australia, “Good on you Leah!”

    1. Thank you, Aunt Linda! I also found the history of Ohio farmers to be very interesting. There is a lot going on there and the politics of soil conservation is fascinating. I hope to study that more specifically in grad school.

  5. Here is my long question Leah! • I found your statements on p. 21, “we use our political identification and our race to help us make political decisions, instead of considering things like economics or ‘rationality’” very powerful. As you state, care of our soil is mostly in the hands of white, rural political identity, farmers who will not recognize climate change as an issue. I like your suggestion on p. 26 about working with OARDC around a Morrill Act funding model to promote sustainable soil practices. Do you think OARD could also facilitate farmers into supporting legislation on soil policy and renewable energy sector jobs consistent with republican ideology and white identity? Especially with Ohio’s strong history of separating state and farm issues? How might the SDT help frame such a project? Or do you think OARDC needs to keep their work at the individual farm, city, county level?

    1. Wow! These are great questions! In response to your first question, I could see it going either way. Because my qualitative data found that elite republican endorsement did not increase support for renewable energy, which is usually effective it might not. However my qualitative data found a strong relationship between these farmers and promoting sustainable soil use. I think I could do a whole different project on just that! Your second question highlights a strong reason why this may not work, however again, the OARDC is part of the state government, and it is an example of how this ideology of separation of agriculture and state has not not help up. SDT might help frame this if these new policies are framed so they are coming from people who are like these farmers and who are focused on helping the farmers in their community.

  6. Great work! I loved being able to watch this study develop. Do you think that racial identity politics and elite party endorsement would play a different/stronger role on a topic that was not agriculturally based? If so, what do you think this means for the future of renewable energy job creation and soil conservation policy?

    1. Heidi, what a great question! I think it depends on the topic- it might play a stronger role or less strong. Because agriculture/ rural life is so central to the white political identity, I think a lot of subjects may not garner such strong reaction from the white political community. My guess is that in other issues such as gun control or abortion, white racial identity politics would play a huge role. In terms of the future for soil politics and renewable energy jobs, one answer may be to enforce more local policy. However, one concern with this is if we pander to this white political identity that fosters racism in our environmental policy, will this continue environmental injustice and racism in the country? This is not a question I can answer now, but I think should be researched in the future.

  7. Here are my last two questions Leah!
    • Do you plan to meet with an OARDC professional(s) to share your findings? I think these findings and your review of the literature would be useful in helping them with their work.
    • What new research questions emerged as you worked on this project?

    1. Thank you for all your great questions! 🙂

      I do not plan on this now, but that is a fantastic idea. I may pursue this. There are lots of future research that can come from this. Some big questions I have are how local environmental policy could foster racism, how more liberal or Democratic farmers operate in the vastly conservative world of farming, and what is the biggest motivation for farmers to conserve their soil, and how we can translate this into soil conservation that sequesters more carbon.

      1. Leah: Really insightful responses to my questions. I can see that there is much research to be done in this area and glad you are interested in doing more. Your awareness of racism and its impact in this area is so important to have front and center. Enjoy the rest of your day Leah!

  8. Nice job Leah! Do you think you would get differing results if you surveyed people who might be more left-leaning or independent?

    1. Thank you, Anne! Yes absolutely. Of the Democrats and Independents I did survey, they approved of renewable energy job policy regardless of who endorsed it, at a significant level. My guess is that if I surveyed only Democrats or Republicans is that they would support this policy the most if endorsed by a Democrat, but would still support it if endorsed by a Republican. In terms of my qualitative data, I would be fascinated to learn about what Democrat/ left leaning farmers think of the OARDC and other state farming resources/ groups.

  9. So forward thinking! I love the topic and your poster was phenomenal. I hope you get a chance to develop this further and make the teal change that is necessary.

  10. Amazing work Leah! I am so so proud of you and all that you have accomplished at Wooster! Congratulations!

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