Blowin' in the Wind: The Electoral Effects of Wind Energy Expansion in Sweden
Abstract The construction of wind farms is politically contested, yet crucial for the green transition. Wind energy expansion has influenced electoral behavior by decreasing support for incumbents. This is mostly explained by not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) arguments. However, how the establishment of wind farms shapes electoral behavior in proportional systems with concurrent elections and how the ideological position of parties shapes voters' electoral responses have not been fully considered. By using fixed-effects and difference-in-differences analyses with electoral data, this study explores the electoral ramifications of wind energy expansion in Sweden, a country with both high commitments to the green transition and large sparsely populated areas that are ideal for wind energy extraction. This study shows that the establishment of wind farms is politically costly, but only for the Social Democratic and agrarian parties, who hold positive views on wind energy. Additionally, parties at the national level are punished more than those at the local level, despite municipalities having veto rights over building permits for wind turbines. This could be explained by blurred accountability, where voters punish parties without knowing who is responsible. Wind farm expansion thus results in democratic problems and can contribute to substantial vote switching across different levels of government.