Research Roundup for August, 2019

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

  • A majority of Americans are dissatisfied with government efforts to preserve the environment. Dissatisfaction is at its highest level since 2006. Americans who disapprove of President Trump are more likely to be dissatisfied (Gallup, 2019).

  • More than four in 10 Democrats say that climate change is a “crisis.” Another four in 10 show slightly less concern, naming climate change “a major problem” (Morning Consult, 2019).

  • Climate change ranks behind only health care among issues that Democrats say will be important to their vote in the upcoming presidential primary. This is true even among voters over the age of 65 (Monmouth University, 2019).

  • Climate change is the number two issue for Democrats in the 2020 election, with around four in five saying the problem is very important. Consistent with other polls, health care ranks as the number one issue (CBS & YouGov, 2019).

  • Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say that droughts, hurricanes, thunderstorms and floods are more frequent and intense than they were a decade ago. This may be because Democrats are more likely to consume news stories about climate change (Reuters & Ipsos, 2019).

  • In a poll following a spate of scorching summer heat, half of Americans said they have personally felt the effects of climate change, representing a marked increase over a poll taken last August. The biggest shift in opinion was among Republicans. Relatedly, the portion of Republicans who said that humans are causing climate change also ticked up (The Economist & YouGov, 2019).

  • Democrats and Republicans are divided on views of global threats. Democrats are more far more likely to say that climate change and Russia pose a major threat, while Republicans are more likely to point to Iran and ISIS (Pew Research, 2019).

  • Fox News viewers are far more likely than non-viewers to doubt that humans are changing the climate. Fox viewers are also more likely to worry about socialism (Navigator Research, 2019).

  • Some 86 percent of Americans believe that scientists act in the public interest, a 10-point increase over 2016. Americans now put more trust in scientists than they do in the military. However, Republicans are less likely than Democrats to trust scientists. Republicans tend to think that scientists are susceptible to bias and should not have a role in policy debates (Pew Research, 2019).

  • Military leaders and Republican Party leaders are more effective climate change communicators than are climate scientists and Democratic Party leaders. That is, when military leaders and Republican leaders say that climate change poses a threat, Americans are more likely to agree with them (Bolsen, Palm, & Kingsland, 2019).

  • Climate scientists who agree that humans are altering the climate in dangerous ways are far more likely to see their work published and citied than are scientists who doubt that climate change poses a significant threat. However, climate doubters are better represented in the news media (Petersen, Vincent, & Westerling, 2019).

  • In wealthier countries, news outlets tend to frame climate change as a matter of domestic politics, whereas in poorer countries, they tend to frame it as a matter of international relations (Vu, Liu, & Tran, 2019).

  • Seven in 10 Americans believe the United States should take aggressive action to stem climate change. But less than four in 10 say they would take public transportation, buy an electric vehicle, eat less meat, or pay an additional $100 per year in taxes to combat climate change (Reuters and Ipsos, 2019).

  • Less than half of Americans say they would be willing to pay more money to get their electricty from renewable energy. Those who would be willing to pay more tend to understand that fossil fuels are harmful and that clean energy is affordable and creates jobs. People who are young, educated and liberal are also more likely to pay more (Gustafson et al., 2019).

  • Compared to non-Christians, American Christians are more likely to say that they want to deal with climate change to provide a better life for their children and to protect God’s creation. Christians are less motivated by the prospect of preventing the destruction of most of the life on planet Earth (Goldberg, Gustafson, Ballew, Rosenthal, & Leiserowitz, 2019).

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