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Public Attitudes, Perceptions, and Concern about Global Warming: Evidence from a New Survey

AMS Climate Change Audio - Environmental Science Seminar Series (ESSS)

07/23/08 • 107 min

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According to a February, 18, 2007, press release describing a survey on public perceptions of global warming, a majority of Americans agreed with most scientists that the Earth is getting warmer, but were divided over the seriousness of the problem, predicated on a belief that scientists themselves disagreed about global warming. What, if any, was the role of the news media in fueling that perception? Is that perception still prevalent? And where does the public stand today regarding amelioration strategies? Do people support the policy solutions that are most favored by the Presidential candidates? Is there a relation between what people know about global warming and how concerned they are about it? Is there a divide between Republicans and Democrats on these matters? If so, how might one explain these differences in perceptions about global warming? Program Summary With both major Presidential candidates endorsing cap and trade programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and Congress increasingly devoting effort to climate change legislation, the American public's views of these matters will become more important in the coming months. Yet survey evidence suggests that cap-and-trade is one of the public's least favorite ways to reduce emissions. Our speaker today, Professor Jon Krosnick, has conducted a new national survey to explore the reasons for this reluctance. Different respondents were randomly assigned to receive different descriptions of cap-and-trade, to see whether some framings increased the policy's appeal. The results identify communication strategies that were and were not successful and thereby point to reasons for the public's reluctance. The survey also experimentally tested the hypothesis that "balanced" news media coverage of climate change has caused the majority of Americans to believe that there is no consensus among scientific experts about the existence of climate change. The survey's evidence highlights unintended consequences of "optimal" journalism and the power of the press. Biography For 25 years, Dr. Jon A. Krosnick has conducted research exploring how the American public's political attitudes are formed, change, and shape thinking and action. He is co-principal investigator of the American National Election Study, the nation's preeminent academic project exploring voter decision-making and political campaign effects. A world-renowned expert on questionnaire design and survey research methodology, he has conducted survey studies of Americans' attitudes on environmental issues in collaboration with ABC News, the Washington Post, Time magazine, and New Scientist magazine. Dr. Krosnick has authored six books and more than 120 peer-reviewed scientific articles. His books include the Handbook of Questionnaire Design (forthcoming), Attitude Strength, Thinking about Politics, and Introduction to Survey Research, Polling, and Data Analysis. Dr. Krosnick teaches courses on survey methodology around the world at universities, for corporations, and for government agencies, testifies regularly as an expert witness in courts in the U.S. and abroad, and has served as an on-air election-night television commentator and exit poll data analyst. Dr. Krosnick earned an A.B. degree in Psychology (Magna Cum Laude) from Harvard University in 1980; an M.A. degree in Social Psychology (with Honors) from the University of Michigan in 1983, and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from University of Michigan in 1986.


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