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Not Only Health: Environmental Pollution Disasters and Political Trust

Gong, Xun, Yang, Shenggang, Zhang, Min
Sustainability 2017 v.9 no.4
adverse effects, attitudes and opinions, cross-sectional studies, databases, disasters, females, mental health, path analysis, politics, pollution, surveys, China
Over the past 30 years, the economy of China has sustained rapid growth. However, the extensive development pattern severely deteriorates the ecological environment, which has been recognized as adverse effects on citizens’ physical and mental health. Simultaneously, the political trust in China has been in decline after staying at a high level for a long time. In this paper, we state that, in addition to health issues, environmental pollution can also lead to important political consequences. Using statistics on the occurrence of environmental pollution disasters and a nationally representative survey database in China, we find that environmental pollution disasters can negatively affect citizens’ trust of the government. This relationship persists after a series of endogenous tests and robustness checks. Path analysis indicates that this relationship can be partially mediated by the increase in citizens’ environmental awareness. The cross-sectional analyses on individual characteristics demonstrate that the negative effect of environmental pollution disasters on political trust is less pronounced for female citizens and citizens who are communist party members. Finally, we report that the government’s positive attitudes and activities in resolving environmental pollution problems can partially offset the negative effect of environmental pollution disasters on political trust.