Public Opinion Foundations of the Clean Energy Transition

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The attitudes and behaviors of citizens are central to the clean energy transition. However, there is often theoretical ambiguity about the role of publics, which has consequences for understanding decarbonization trajectories and the conditions that enable political reforms. Departing from previous debates, we argue that citizens are neither irrelevant nor omniscient. We use the recent turn to green industrial policy to illustrate three ways public opinion affects the clean energy transition through the ways politicians anticipate the public's responses to policies, the types of leaders elected into office over time, and the consumption decisions individuals make. Our intervention identifies new avenues for public opinion research necessitated by the transformation in climate policy approaches worldwide.

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