Over the last 15 years, the shale gas boom has transformed the US energy industry and numerous local communities. Political representatives from fracking areas have become more conservative, yet whether this elite shift reflects mass preferences is unclear. We examine the effects of fracking on the political participation of voters and donors in boom areas. While voters benefit from higher wages and employment, other fracking-induced community changes may dampen their participation. In contrast, donors experience more of the economic gains without the negative externalities. Combining zip code–level data on shale gas wells with individual data on political participation, we find that fracking lowers voter participation and increases donations. Both of these effects vary in ways that benefit conservatives and Republicans. These findings help explain why Republican candidates win more elections and become more conservative in fracking areas. Our results show broadly positive economic changes can have unequal political impacts.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science