SWEDISH MPS’ PERCEPTIONS OF THEIR ABILITY TO ACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE. An interview study of external efficacy, representation, and climate change
National politicians are appointed to govern, but the ability to do so is not clear-cut. Previous studies have overlooked politicians’ perceptions of this ability, called external efficacy. The purpose of this study is to explore how politicians perceive their external efficacy regarding climate change. The theoretical approach is that politicians’ perceptions of external efficacy need to be related to their ideals of representation, since ideals that includes running public opinion from above implies a broader spectrum of abilities for which external efficacy is needed than ideals that do not. Additionally, it is theoretically argued that external efficacy has two dimensions, outcome efficacy and means efficacy. By conducting semi-structured respondent interviews with Swedish members of parliament, four general approaches to external efficacy regarding climate change are formulated. In addition, it is shown that ideals of running public opinion from above predominate, but when it comes to questions of lifestyle, the ideal is diverged from as lifestyle changes are seen as beyond their external efficacy. It is shown that electoral receptivity, defined as perceptions of the electorate’s openness to opinion leadership, is the most important factor for the respondents’ perceptions of their external efficacy regarding climate change. More specifically, it is argued that only measures that do not imply lifestyle changes are seen as possible, as the electorate is perceived as unreceptive regarding changes in lifestyle.