This paper conducts an empirical analysis of the factors affecting U.S. public concern about the threat of climate change between January 2002 and December 2010. Utilizing Stimson’s method of constructing aggregate opinion measures, data from 74 separate surveys over a 9-year period are used to construct quarterly measures of public concern over global climate change. We examine five factors that should account for changes in levels of concern: 1) extreme weather events, 2) public access to accurate scientific information, 3) media coverage, 4) elite cues, and 5) movement/countermovement advocacy. A time-series analysis indicates that elite cues and structural economic factors have the largest effect on the level of public concern about climate change. While media coverage exerts an important influence, this coverage is itself largely a function of elite cues and economic factors. Weather extremes have no effect on aggregate public opinion. Promulgation of scientific information to the public on climate change has a minimal effect. The implication would seem to be that information-based science advocacy has had only a minor effect on public concern, while political mobilization by elites and advocacy groups is critical in influencing climate change concern.
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For example, see the debate between Jon Krosnick based on his NY Times Op-Ed (NY Times June 8, 2010) and the critique provided by the Editor in Chief of Gallup, Frank Newport, in the blog posting of June 10, 2010 (online at http://pollingmatters.gallup.com/2010/06/reflections-on-jon-krosnicks-global.html—accessed 4/19/2011.
See the work of Krosnick (http://woods.stanford.edu/research/surveys.html) and the Six Americas Project at the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication: http://www.climatechangecommunication.org/images/files/Six_Americas_June_2010percent281percent29.pdf
The specific questions used in the analysis, dates administered, and surveying organization, and the data used in the analysis are provided in Supplementary Material online. All of the surveys utilized in the calculation of the CCTI were national samples.
The WCALC program is available online at http://www.unc.edu/~jstimson/ .
Specific details about the variables, key words used in searches, specific magazines used in different categories, and the full data used in the analysis is provided in the Supplementary Material.
We also constructed a measure of major landfalling hurricanes in the U.S. based on data from the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) data set (www.credd.be/). However, it produced negative effects and was collinear with the other weather extremes measures, so we do not show it.
In order to test for the possibility of effects carrying over from one quarter to another, we ran our regression results including the lagged CCTI as an independent variable. In all cases, this procedure resulted in non-significance for all of the independent variables. This is in line with the analysis conducted by Achen (2001). He argues that the addition of a lagged dependent variable (LDV) can inaccurately degrade the effects of the other variables when serial correlation and trending exist in the exogenous variable (as is the case here). Keele and Kelly (2005) further note that if the process is considered to be stationary, the addition of the LDV will bias the analyses. Both the Phillips-Perron and Dickey-Fuller unit root tests showed that the dependent variable is stationary. Since the statistical literature argues against the inclusion of a LDV when the underlying data is stationary and serial correlation is present we only show models without the LDV as they will provide the most statistically accurate estimates.
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Brulle, R.J., Carmichael, J. & Jenkins, J.C. Shifting public opinion on climate change: an empirical assessment of factors influencing concern over climate change in the U.S., 2002–2010. Climatic Change 114, 169–188 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-012-0403-y
- Climate Change
- Public Opinion
- Media Coverage
- Public Concern
- Address Climate Change