Climatic Change

, Volume 128, Issue 1–2, pp 17–33 | Cite as

The American public’s preference for preparation for the possible effects of global warming: impact of communication strategies

  • Bo MacInnis
  • Jon A. Krosnick
  • Adina Abeles
  • Margaret R. Caldwell
  • Erin Prahler
  • Debbie Drake Dunne


Experiments embedded in surveys of nationally representative samples of American adults assessed whether attitudes toward preparation for the possible effects of global warming varied depending on who endorsed such efforts, the stated purpose of preparation, the consequences of global warming targeted in a preparation message, and the words used to describe preparation and its alternative. Collapsing across all experiments, most (74 %) Americans preferred preparing for possible consequences of global warming. The experimental manipulations produced statistically significant variation in this percentage, but in ways inconsistent with a series of perspectives that yield predictions about this variation. Preference for preparation was not greater when it was described using more familiar or simpler terms (preference for preparation was greatest when it was described as to “increase preparedness” and least when described as “increase resilience”), when efforts were said to be focused on people’s health rather than on people and the environment generally or on coastal ecosystems in particular, or when preparation was endorsed by more generally trusted groups (preference for preparation was highest when no one explicitly endorsed it or when endorsed by government officials or university researchers and declined when religious leaders or business leaders endorsed it). Thus, these experiments illustrate the value of empirical testing to gauge the impact of variation in descriptions of policy options in this arena and illustrate how communication approaches may have influenced public opinion in the past.


Global Warming Government Official Religious Leader General Trust Business Leader 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was sponsored by the Woods Institute for the Environment and the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University. The authors thank Manuel Gomez-Ramirez and Hector Santa Cruz for their assistance with the Spanish translation of the questionnaire and thank Christine Harrison for her advice. Jon Krosnick is University Fellow at Resources for the Future.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 74 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bo MacInnis
    • 1
  • Jon A. Krosnick
    • 1
  • Adina Abeles
    • 2
  • Margaret R. Caldwell
    • 2
  • Erin Prahler
    • 2
  • Debbie Drake Dunne
    • 3
  1. 1.Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Center for Ocean SolutionsStanford UniversityMontereyUSA
  3. 3.Stanford Woods Institute for the EnvironmentStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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