From the Parks to the Polls: National Parks, Place Attachment, and Environmental Voting Behavior

Rebecca LaRue

Name: Rebecca LaRue
Major: Political Science (U.S. National Politics)
Minors: Geology, Education
Advisors: Dr. Bas van Doorn

Dr. Melissa Schultz Sustainability and the Environment Award

My project examines the relationship between National Park visitation, place attachment, and levels of support for pro-environmental ballot measures. The theoretical argument for this relationship is that increased visitation to National Parks will lead to increased levels of place attachment, which in turn would lead to an increased likelihood to vote ‘yes’ on pro-environmental ballot measures. Place attachment is the emotional and cognitive bond between a person and a place. When people visit a place, they form an attachment to that place, and because they are attached to it, are more likely to want to protect it. This desire to protect a place of pristine natural beauty, like a National Park, can then ‘spillover’ into other areas, increasing a person’s support for environmental protections. I designed a survey, which measured respondents’ visitation to National Parks, levels of place attachment, and likelihood to vote ‘yes’ on pro-environmental ballot measures. I found evidence to support that visitation to National Parks does increase place attachment, which in turn increases levels of support for pro-environmental ballot measures. This increase in support was seen to hold steady across two different pro-environmental ballot measures relating to different environmental issues. Future research could include investigating this relationship in State Parks, and would benefit from a more diverse sample population.


Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022.

11 responses to “From the Parks to the Polls: National Parks, Place Attachment, and Environmental Voting Behavior”

  1. Matt Krain says:

    What a great study, Becky, with such important implications for environmental policy. How wonderful that visiting National Parks can have such a positive effect. And how awesome that you used mediation analysis too!

  2. Bas van Doorn says:

    Terrific work, Becky! Loved serving as your advisor on this great project.

  3. Angie Bos says:

    Hey Becky! Your project is such a strong example of taking a great JR IS project and transitioning it to a fabulous SR IS project. Your substantive area is so important and I really do hope you continue with this research in your PhD program next year! It’s been a joy working with you. Best, Prof. Bos

  4. Leah Weakland says:

    This sounds really interesting!! I’ve worked for the NPS for almost 10 years, and I would love to read the study and share it with my colleagues!

  5. Kay Wetmore says:

    Congrats Becky! Your IS topic is so interesting and I enjoyed learning more about it!

  6. Clare Leithauser says:

    Congrats Becky, this is very interesting! What is the most challenging thing you faced during your research?

  7. Carter Schmidt says:

    Good job Becky, I found it very interesting how you combined multiple areas of study to create such a captivating project! you did an amazing job!

  8. Hannah Groetsch says:

    This is such a cool topic Becky, great job!

  9. Becky LaRue says:

    Hi Clare, I’m glad you found my project interesting! I think the most challenging thing that I faced during my research was during the analysis. Mediation analyses involve a lot of steps, and it took a lot of work to make sure that every single part of the process went well.

  10. Becky LaRue says:

    Hi Leah! I’m so glad you found my work interesting, I would love to share a copy with you! My email is rlarue22@wooster.edu, if you send me an email I can send a copy over!

  11. Cullers Wright says:

    This was hard. I loved watching the PowerPoint, reading the article, and critically thinking about how national parks have affected my opinion on environmental issues

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