Republican Candidates Gain Votes After Shale Booms


Averi Haugesag

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Business & Public Administration


Republican candidates are gaining votes after shale booms, according to Eric Gilje, Assistant Professor of Finance at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Some of these people had historically identified as liberals,” says Gilje.

But, Gilje says that may no longer be the case.

Through research, Gilje has concluded shale booms have changed voter preferences and politics. An abstract co-authored by Gilje states, “support for conservative interests rise after shale booms and Republican candidates gain votes, nearly doubling the probability of incumbency changes.” Gilje says Democrats are losing seats in office to Republicans following shale booms. While some Democratic representatives may try to vote more conservatively, his research found being re-voted in is still unlikely; giving Republicans the upper hand at the ballot box.

On Monday, April 11, Gilje came to the University of North Dakota’s College of Business and Public Administration to present his research to a group of roughly thirty students, staff and faculty. In his seminar, Gilje says he didn’t have an exact answer as to why these changes are occurring. He said it’s even possible that, “Maybe people are waking up one day and deciding to vote differently.”

In the study, Gilje and his partners conducted research in what he calls the seven most prevalent shale areas: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and of course, North Dakota. Within those areas, one piece Gilje analyzed was exit poll data from a national database. He found many individuals identify as a liberal, yet they are voting for a Republican in shale areas relative to non-shale areas. Gilje says support for conservative interests is on the rise. “Look at how representatives are scored by other interest groups and you see that basically, on a wide variety of social issues and tax issues, a trend toward more conservatism.”

Living in Grand Forks, hundreds of miles away from the nearest oil well you may be left wondering, why should we care? Gilje says because people need, “to understand how voter preference shifts representative democracy.” These shifts could land a different person in office. “When you change your representative, you’re getting a whole package of other things,” says Gilje.