Did TV ads funded by fossil fuel industry defeat the Washington carbon tax?

Karceski, S.M., Dolšak, N., Prakash, A. et al. Did TV ads funded by fossil fuel industry defeat the Washington carbon tax?. Climatic Change (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02626-z

The state of Washington saw a “blue wave” in the November 2018 midterm elections. Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell was reelected with 58.4% of the vote. In the House of Representative elections, Democrats snatched the 8th Congressional district from Republicans. And yet, the carbon tax initiative (I-1631) lost, securing only 43.5% of the vote. A number of I-1631 supporters and media outlets blamed “fossil fuel” money for the defeat. One account in Rolling Stone claimed, “Last night in Washington State, Big Oil bought another election and pushed the world a little deeper into climate chaos” (Goodell 2018). The I-1631 campaign was the most expensive public initiative (or referendum) campaign in the history of Washington State (White 2018). The No on I-1631 campaign spent $31.6 million, while the Yes on I-631 campaign spent $16.4 million (Ballotpedia 2018). But did the I-1631 lose because the opposition spent twice as much money? In this study we test whether the variation in numbers of television ads across Washington’s four media markets influenced voting behavior. Our analysis fails to support the claim that opposition ads defeated the 2018 carbon tax initiative. 

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