Changing Tides: Public Attitudes on Climate Migration

The Journal of Politics, Forthcoming

107 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2021 Last revised: 4 Apr 2021

See all articles by Sabrina B. Arias

Sabrina B. Arias

University of Pennsylvania

Christopher W. Blair

University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: February 22, 2021


Little existing work studies public perceptions of climate-induced migration. We redress this gap, drawing on diverse literatures in political science and social psychology. We argue that climate migrants occupy an intermediate position in the public view, garnering greater support than traditional economic migrants but less support than refugees. Evidence from a conjoint experiment embedded in nationally representative surveys of 2160 respondents in the U.S. and Germany provide support for this claim. Importantly, this result holds for internal and international migrants. These findings suggest the importance of humanitarian considerations and empathy in shaping migration attitudes. We use a follow-up factorial experiment to explore potential policy implications of public support for climate migrants. We find no evidence that priming climate migration increases support for climate change mitigation, echoing existing work on the difficulty of mobilizing climate action, and suggesting that climate migration is unlikely to spur greater support for mitigating climate change.

Suggested Citation

Arias, Sabrina and Blair, Christopher, Changing Tides: Public Attitudes on Climate Migration (February 22, 2021). The Journal of Politics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Sabrina Arias (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

The Ronald O. Perelman Center
133 S. 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States


Christopher Blair

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics