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Global Warming’s Six Americas’ Perceptions of the Health Risks

Global Warming’s Six Americas’ Perceptions of the Health Risks

We are pleased to announce the release of a new report, "Global Warming’s Six Americas, October 2014: Perceptions of the Health Consequences of Global Warming and Update on Key Beliefs."

This report is the seventh we have issued on the Six Americas – six segments within the American public that are characterized by distinct patterns of global warming beliefs, attitudes, policy preferences, and behaviors: the Alarmed (13%), Concerned (31%), Cautious (23%), Disengaged (7%), Doubtful (13%), and Dismissive (13%). 

The report then focuses on how each of the Six Americas understands the human health consequences of global warming as identified in the U.S. National Climate Assessment. We find that even the segments most concerned about global warming have little understanding of the current or future impacts on human health. This limited awareness strongly indicates the need for more public education about how global warming will affect human health.

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American Catholics Worry About Global Warming and Support U.S. Action

This summer, Pope Francis, who leads 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, will issue a papal encyclical on climate change. An encyclical is a letter that sets church doctrine on critical issues and is one of the most important forms of communication within the church.

Early indications are that he will define climate change as a fundamentally moral and religious challenge for the world. Pope Francis will then separately address the General Assembly of the United Nations and a joint session of the U.S. Congress in September in the lead-up to this year’s critical UN climate negotiations in Paris.

What do American Catholics and other Christians currently believe about global warming, how worried are they, and do they support policy action?

To answer these questions, we conducted a special analysis on our recent nationally representative survey conducted in the fall of 2014. Overall, we find that Catholics – 24% of all American adults – are more convinced that global warming is happening, are more worried, and are more supportive of policy action than other Christians.

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Scientific Consensus on Climate Change as a Gateway Belief

We are pleased to announce a newly published article: "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change as a Gateway Belief: Experimental Evidence" by Sander van der Linden, Anthony Leiserowitz, Geoffrey Feinberg and Edward Maibach in the journal PLoS ONE.

Our prior survey research has found that only one in ten Americans (9%) correctly understands that there is a scientific consensus about human-caused climate change – i.e., that nearly all climate scientists are convinced that human-caused climate change is happening. Our new article reports the results of an experiment that investigated how people respond when informed about the scientific consensus. 

Our results provide strong evidence for a gateway belief model. On average, being exposed to a “consensus-message” increased study participants’ perceptions of the scientific consensus by 12.8%, and up to as much as 20% in some conditions (compared to a control group). Moreover, this substantial change in the perceived level of scientific consensus caused a positive shift in participants’ belief that climate change is happening, human-caused and a worrisome threat. Changes in these beliefs, in turn, increased support for public action. Importantly, we found these effects for both Democrats and Republicans. 

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Will new voter demographics move public opinion on climate change?

We are pleased to share a piece we authored recently published in The Conversation about how the American electorate is changing in ways that bode well for increased support for tackling climate change.

The Rising American Electorate (RAE) is a voting block identified by the non-profit Voter Participation Center as young voters (18-30 year olds), Latinos, African-Americans, unmarried women and others. According to exit polls, this group accounted for about half of voters (48%) in the 2012 national elections and is projected to comprise a growing proportion of the electorate in the coming years.

The RAE is more engaged than other Americans on climate issues. According to YPCCC/George Mason research, a solid majority of the RAE is worried about global warming (63%), compared to just half of other Americans registered to vote (50%), and more of the RAE say global warming is important to them (62% versus 52%, respectively).

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Mapping the Shadow of Extreme Weather Experience

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new peer-reviewed article: Howe, P., Boudet, H. Maibach, E., and Leiserowitz, A. (2014) “Mapping the Shadow of Experience of Extreme Weather Events.” Climatic Change 127 (2): 381–89. DOI:10.1007/s10584-014-1253-6.

Climate change will likely increase the frequency and/or intensity of certain extreme weather events, and perceived experience with extreme weather may influence climate change beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.

In this paper we investigated what factors lead people to report experiencing extreme weather events, including their proximity to the event, the size, and the duration of the event. We geographically located each respondent from our 2012 national survey, along with the locations of extreme events from the prior year, including droughts, tornados, and hurricanes. We then mapped the areas in which people reported that they had personally experienced these events, which we call the “shadow of experience.”

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Not All Republicans Think Alike About Global Warming

Not All Republicans Think Alike About Global Warming

The new Republican leaders in Congress have pledged to roll back the EPA’s proposed new regulations on coal-fired power plants – a key component of President Obama’s strategy to reduce global warming.

However, Republican voters are actually split in their views about climate change. A look at public opinion among Republicans over the past few years finds a more complex – and divided – Republican electorate.

For this study, we combined the results from six of our nationally-representative surveys over the past three years, which provided enough data for an in-depth analysis of the diversity of views about global warming within the Republican party.

We find that solid majorities of self-identified moderate and liberal Republicans – who comprise 30% of the party – think global warming is happening (62% and 68% respectively). By contrast, 38% of conservative Republicans think global warming is happening. At the extreme, Tea Party Republicans (17% of the party) are the most dismissive – only 29% think global warming is happening.

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