Climatic Change

, Volume 139, Issue 3–4, pp 367–380 | Cite as

Cross-pressuring conservative Catholics? Effects of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the U.S. public opinion on climate change

  • Nan LiEmail author
  • Joseph Hilgard
  • Dietram A. Scheufele
  • Kenneth M. Winneg
  • Kathleen Hall Jamieson


In an encyclical released in June of 2015, Pope Francis cast the need to address climate change as a moral imperative. Using nationally-representative surveys with supplemental samples of Catholics, we investigate changes in the U.S. public’s post-encyclical attitudes about climate change and the Catholic pontiff. People who were aware of the encyclical held more polarized attitudes toward climate change than those who were unaware of it. Whereas encyclical-aware liberals expressed heightened concerns about climate change, encyclical-aware conservatives expressed lower levels. Cross-pressured by the inconsistency between the pontiff’s views and those of their political allies, conservative Catholics devalued the Pope’s credibility on climate change. These findings have important implications for communication about climate change in polarized opinion environments.


Climate Change Anthropogenic Climate Change Random Digit Dial Climate Change Concern Catholic Bishop 
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Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nan Li
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joseph Hilgard
    • 2
  • Dietram A. Scheufele
    • 3
  • Kenneth M. Winneg
    • 2
  • Kathleen Hall Jamieson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural Education & CommunicationsTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  2. 2.Annenberg Public Policy CenterUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Life Sciences CommunicationUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison & Morgridge Institute for ResearchMadisonUSA

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