Research Roundup for September, 2018

Highlights from recent research on the science of climate change communication:

  • Fifty-five percent of Americans understand that humans are changing the climate, up five percentage points from 2017. Roughly the same number proportion believes the United States already has been harmed by climate change (YouGov, 2018).

  • Two-thirds of registered voters are worried about climate change. This includes roughly nine in 10 Democrats and four in 10 Republicans (Politico & Morning Consult, 2018).

  • Nearly two-thirds of registered voters say the United States must do more to address climate change (Quinnipiac University, 2017).

  • Nearly half of registered voters oppose President Trump’s weakening of federal fuel standards. Only around a third support the measure (Politico & Morning Consult, 2018).

  • Nearly half of registered voters support the Affordable Clean Energy rule, President Trump’s replacement for the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era rule limiting carbon pollution from power plants. However, 45 percent of voters were less likely to support the Affordable Clean Energy rule after learning that, by increasing pollution, it will contribute to up to 1,400 deaths each year (Politico & Morning Consult, 2018).

  • Americans are more likely to support limits on emissions from power plants when told that power plants contribute to air pollution than when told that power plants contribute to climate change. This is especially true among Republicans (Hart & Feldman, 2018).

This chart shows how much Democrats, Independents and Republicans believe that power plants contribute to either air pollution or climate change.

This chart shows how much Democrats, Independents and Republicans believe that power plants contribute to either air pollution or climate change.

  • Researchers have identified four key questions that can be used to sort Americans according to their views of climate change (Chryst et al., 2018). They are:

    • How important is the issue of global warming to you personally?

    • How worried are you about global warming?

    • How much do you think global warming will harm you personally?

    • How much do you think global warming will harm future generations of people?

  • Climate change is a leading concern for Americans under 30, trailing only racial discrimination, gun safety and immigration. Notably, young Americans said that they were less likely to learn about climate change from TV news and more likely to learn about it from print media, as compared with other issues (INFLUENCE|SG, 2018).

  • At least eight in 10 voters in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico and Nevada support the development of renewable energy. At least six in 10 oppose weakening regulations on oil and gas development. A similar proportion say they would reject a candidate who prioritizes energy development on public land (Center for Western Priorities, 2018).

  • Americans who live in counties dependent on coal or gas extraction are less likely to support policies aimed at fostering the growth of renewable energy (Olson-Hazboun, Howe, & Leiserowitz, 2018).

  • Americans who understand that climate change is human-caused are more likely to believe that heat waves pose a threat to human health. The same is true of Americans who earn little money and those who did not attend college (Cutler & Marlon, 2018).

  • A recent study found that liberals were more likely than conservatives to correctly interpret a NASA graph charting the decline of Arctic sea ice. However, both liberals and conservatives better understood the graph after reading what others had to say about it online. The results suggest that exposure to opposing views can help overcome political bias (Guilbeault, Becker, & Centola, 2018).


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