Is Climate Change Changing Minds? Limited Effects of the Physical Environment on Climate Policy Opinion in the United States
21 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2020
Date Written: February 3, 2020
Conventional wisdom predicts that people impacted by climate change effects should be more supportive of climate change mitigation efforts. However, previous research offers conflicting evidence on this score. To disentangle these conflicting findings, I devise novel and highly-favorable tests of the effects of the physical environment; merging FEMA climate disaster declaration records – which have been shown to be highly influential in shaping public opinion – into five large nationally representative surveys (N = 213,250). Even under substantively and statistically favorable conditions, I find that recent experience with climate-related disaster (N = 29,067) is associated with only a small (1%) increase in support for mitigation policy. These results are robust to several modeling strategies, and do not appear to be the result of ideological “ceiling effects.” I conclude by discussing how these findings can help inform effective climate change policy communication efforts.
Keywords: climate change opinion, public opinion, environmental policy, political psychology, survey research
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