The Spatial Range of Public Goods Revealed Through Referendum Voting
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1007/s10640-010-9380-7
Billions of dollars are now spent annually in the United States and Europe for spatially delineated environmental services such as agricultural landscape management and river restoration programs, yet little is known about the spatial distribution of the benefits from these policies. This paper develops a framework for recovering information on this question from the spatial pattern of votes cast for referenda on the provision of spatially delineated public goods. We specify a model linking voter support for environmental improvement to the distance at which such improvements are expected to occur. The empirical application is to a river restoration referendum in the Swiss canton of Bern. Our results indicate that the benefits from river restoration have a strong local component, sufficiently strong that voter approval would not occur if only canton-wide benefits were at stake. Surprisingly, support for river restoration is no greater, and in some specifications is actually lower, in locations where rivers are a prominent feature in the environment.