Research Roundup for January, 2019

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

  • Some 73 percent of Americans understand the climate is changing, while 62 percent understand that humans are the cause. Both figures represent an all-time high. Seventy-two percent of Americans say that climate change is personally important to them, also an all-time high (Leiserowitz et al., 2018).

  • One in four Americans say the government should work on climate change this year. There is more public support for addressing climate change than for every other issue except health care and immigration (AP-NORC, 2018).

  • Nine in 10 Democrats say that tackling climate change should be a top priority for Congress in 2019. The only issue that has more support among Democrats is lowering the price of prescription drugs. By contrast, less than four in 10 Republicans say that climate change should be a top priority for Congress (Politico & Harvard, 2019).

  • Support for environmental spending falls during Democratic presidencies. This is largely due to a drop in support among Republicans (Johnson & Schwadel, 2018).

  • Polls taken in 2011, 2012 and 2015 found that, among Americans who had recently changed their opinion about climate change, more than eight in 10 had grown more concerned about climate change. Democrats and Republicans were equally likely to have had a change of heart. Americans with a college education were more likely to have changed their opinion than less educated Americans. Personal experience with climate change was the biggest driver of changing opinions (Deeg, Lyon, Leiserowitz, Maibach, & Marlon, 2019).

  • Seven in 10 Americans say that the United States should take action on climate change even if China fails to do “its fair share.” Just one in 10 says the United States should act only if China does “its fair share” (Schuldt & Yuan, 2019).

  • Around seven in 10 Americans would support a tax on carbon if the funds were used to restore the environment, while six in 10 would support the measure if the revenue were used to fund clean energy research. Just five in 10 would support a carbon tax if the funds were returned as rebates to taxpayers (AP-NORC, 2018).

  • U.S. news coverage of climate change increased from 2017 to 2018. Coverage continued to focus on President Trump’s public remarks and policy decisions. Coverage spiked around the release of a UN report on climate change and a U.S. federal report on climate change (Boykoff, Katzung, & Nacu-Schmidt, 2019).

  • U.S. Latinos are more likely than non-Latino whites to say they have contacted an elected official about climate change, and they are more likely to say they will do so in the future. Latinos are generally more worried about climate change than non-Latino whites, though they are less likely to say they have been urged to contact their elected official. Researchers say advocates should do more to mobilize Latinos (Ballew, Goldberg, Rosenthal, Cutler, & Leiserowitz, 2018).

  • While voters in Washington state rejected a proposed carbon tax in November, they continue to support action on climate change. Roughly two-thirds support a shift to 100 percent clean energy by 2045 (Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, 2018).

  • Roughly eight in 10 South Carolina voters say that rooftop solar owners should be allowed to sell more of the power they generate back to the grid (VoteSolar, 2018).

  • In interviews, viewers of local TV news in Virginia say they are interested in learning about climate change from weathercasters. Viewers tend to trust weathercasters for information about climate change (Engblom et al., 2019).

  • Studies into the partisan divide on climate change have suggested that Republicans reject climate science because it does not accord with their worldview. However, a review of the research finds that it is equally likely that Republicans don’t regard many sources of information on climate change—scientists, advocates, Democratic politicians—as credible (Druckman  & McGrath, 2019).

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