Climate Change: US Public Opinion

Posted: 15 May 2017

See all articles by Patrick J. Egan

Patrick J. Egan

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Megan Mullin

Duke University - Nicholas School of the Environment

Date Written: May 2017

Abstract

A review of research findings and polling data about Americans’ attitudes on climate change reveals a lack of meaningful long-term change in mass opinion. Instead, the structure of Americans’ attitudes toward belief in climate change’s existence, concern about its consequences, and demand for policy response is similar to that regarding many other issues in contemporary US politics: stability in aggregate opinion that masks partisan and ideological polarization enhanced by communications from elites. But features of the climate change problem elicit some distinctive determinants of opinion, including individuals’ trust in science, risk processing, and personal experience. Although our review of the literature and data leaves us skeptical that majority opinion will spur elected officials anytime soon to undertake the costly solutions necessary to tackle this problem comprehensively at the national level, we identify several avenues by which attitudes might promote less substantial but nevertheless consequential policy action.

Suggested Citation

Egan, Patrick J. and Mullin, Megan, Climate Change: US Public Opinion (May 2017). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 20, pp. 209-227, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2968069 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-polisci-051215-022857

Patrick J. Egan (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

19 W. 4th Street
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012
United States

Megan Mullin

Duke University - Nicholas School of the Environment ( email )

Box 90328
Durham, NC 27708-0328
United States

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