How Would Your State Vote on a Ballot Initiative to Ban Battery Cages and Gestation Crates?

The Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics just published a paper I co-authored with Bailey Norwood, Katie Smithson, and Max Corbin entitled: Predicting State-Wide Votes on Ballot Initiatives to Ban Battery Cages and Gestation Crates.

Here are a couple excerpts:

Using California data to project voting behavior on a hypothetical initiative in other states can be considered a thought experiment: an abstract, hypothetical scenario providing a useful index of each state’s concern for animal welfare as determined by their demographic profiles. There are a number of states where initiatives are not allowed, yet this study can still illuminate our understanding of those states also. For example, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Iowa are the three largest hog states but do not allow initiatives—yet these industries can still be affected by legislation sponsored by politicians with a personal interest in animal welfare or politicians influenced by a particular lobby. The absence of an initiative does not mean constituents have no influence nor does it imply constituent demographics are irrelevant. Which of these state’s constituents will be the most or least accepting of gestation crate bans according to the state’s demographics? This research has an answer.


The bottom line for the hog industry is this. Over three-fourths of U.S. hog production is insulated from state-level initiatives banning gestation crates. The question is whether the bad publicity from initiatives in other states and groups, combined with the relatively small benefit of gestation crates, is strong enough to induce the hog industry as a whole to voluntarily discard gestation crates. The answer to this question is unknown. What this study does show is that a state-level initiative to ban gestation crates in Massachusetts, Nevada, Utah, and Washington is a real possibility.