What people know

  • Lawrence Hamilton

What does the public know, and how much do they care, about Arctic environmental change? What do their patterns of awareness and concern imply for science communication? Such questions motivate research that began in 2006 with a “polar module” of knowledge and concern items on the U.S. General Social Survey (GSS). Responses to that survey display levels of public concern that might be encouraging, but have a darker side as well. Political orientation influences how people answer every concern question, from the Inuit way of life to preserving Antarctica for science (Hamilton 2008). Education and science knowledge matter too, but the effects of education and knowledge vary with political beliefs. Among liberal and moderate respondents, for example, expressed concern about polar change increases with education. Among the most conservative respondents, however, concern decreases with education. Figure 1 illustrates this relationship with a survey question about sea level rise.



Arctic Survey Knowledge Education Politics Polar Sea level Sea ice 



Arctic and Antarctic science questions on the Granite State Poll have been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation for the PoLAR Climate Change Education Partnership (DUE-1239783), and Sea Ice Prediction Network (PLR-1303938). Surveys were conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, with assistance from the Carsey School of Public Policy.


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Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Carsey School of Public PolicyUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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