Can urban areas help sustain the preservation of open space? Evidence from statewide referenda
Statewide referenda for land conservation are likely to entail a disparity between people who vote on the referenda and those who live in proximity to conserved areas, which may lead to a lower probability of passage than a more local referendum. This paper examines trends in voting preferences on statewide land conservation referenda in Rhode Island using precinct-level voting data. We identify two similar referenda in 2004 and 2012 and estimate a first difference spatial regression model that seeks to understand the determinants of changes in support over time. Controlling for socioeconomic characteristics and political ideology, we find that referenda support is growing in densely populated communities relative to sparse ones, and there is a multiplicative effect of rapidly growing dense areas. This implies urban areas are becoming critical supporters for the preservation of farm, forest and open space lands, despite being non-proximate to lands at risk of development.