Free associations of citizens and scientists with economic and green growth: A computational-linguistics analysis

Ivan Savin*, Stefan Drews, Jeroen van den Bergh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The debate about the relationship between economic growth and environmental sustainability triggers a range of associations. Here we analyze open-ended textual responses of citizens and scientists concerning their associations with the terms “economic growth” and “green growth”. We derive from the responses a number of topics and examine how associations differ across distinct opinion segments of people, namely supporters of Green growth, Agrowth and Degrowth. The results indicate that the general public is more critical of the notion of economic growth than academic researchers. Citizens stress problems of corruption, social inequality, unemployment and poverty, with less variation among the three opinion segments compared to scientists. The latter more strongly emphasize the environmental consequences of economic growth. Concerning associations of scientists with the term “green growth”, we find topics questioning its feasibility to be more likely expressed by Degrowth supporters, while topics stressing the possibility of sustainable economic growth by Green growth supporters. We find that topic polarization is stronger for scientists than citizens. Our results provide further validation for opinion clusters identified in previous studies and uncover additional insights about related views on growth and sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106878
JournalEcological Economics (Amsterdam)
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Green growth
  • Growth-vs-environment debate
  • Public opinion
  • Scientific opinion
  • Structural topic modelling


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