Opinions On Climate Change Became More Polarized By Political Party Affiliation From 2010 To 2014, Researchers Find
Office of the Provost
ATLANTA—Between 2010 and 2014, Americans’ opinions about climate change became more polarized by political affiliation, increasingly aligning with those of others identifying with the same political party, Georgia State University researchers have found.
In the first large-sample, empirical look at shifts in individual perception of climate change, the researchers used data from a panel of 9,500 respondents who were asked the same question about climate change in 2010 and 2014. The study, “What Causes People to Change Their Opinion about Climate Change?” was published in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers.
“The findings are a reminder of the limited impact that scientific reports, news information, motion pictures or other media have on this highly politically polarized issue,” said Dr. Risa Palm, a geographer and the senior vice president for academic affairs and provost of Georgia State.
Study participants’ positions on climate change were condensed into three categories:
- Climate change is not happening, or is exaggerated.
- More study is needed.
- Climate change is occurring and needs action.
The researchers had expected to find direct experience with warmer weather, drought and weather-related natural disasters would increase concern about climate change. However, they found only warmer-than-average winters had even a small impact on the acceptance of climate change.
Instead, respondents tended to shift their beliefs towards the prevailing opinions among others in their parties, with Democrats becoming more likely to believe climate change is occurring and Republicans becoming more likely to believe it is not happening or is exaggerated.
This pattern was even stronger for those who expressed greater interest in news and public affairs.
The other researchers in this team were Dr. Gregory B. Lewis, professor and chair of the Department of Public Management and Policy in the university’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and Bo Feng, a Ph.D. candidate in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.
The study can be accessed at https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2016.1270193. Media may request a copy of the study by contacting public relations coordinator Jeremy Craig at 404-413-1374 or [email protected].
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
Georgia State University
Dr. Risa Palm became Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost on Sept. 1, 2009. Prior to that she was Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the State University of New York. Palm earned a B.A. degree in history, with a minor in French, and a B.S. degree in social studies education from the University of Minnesota. She subsequently received an M.A. degree in geography from the same institution. In 1972, she was awarded a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Minnesota. She has held tenured positions at the rank of professor in departments of geography at the University of Colorado, the University of Oregon, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Louisiana State University.
Her research interests are in urban geography, and she has done extensive work on the topics of natural hazards response and urban housing.
Professor and Chair
Department of Public Management and Policy
Greg Lewis is professor and chair of Public Management and Policy. He primarily teaches quantitative research methods in the master’s and doctoral programs. He directed the Ph.D. program in public policy until 2012.
Lewis focuses his research on career patterns in the public service and on diversity issues more broadly. Recent work examines the impact of veterans’ preference, performance ratings, and aging on public sector work forces. Most of his work on public sector careers explicitly considers the impact of race and gender – on pay, performance ratings, promotions, turnover, and access to veterans’ preference, among other topics.