Does the label really matter? Evidence that the US public continues to doubt “global warming” more than “climate change”
Does the public doubt the existence of “global warming” more than “climate change”? While previously published research suggests that it does, others have argued that this effect either never existed or has disappeared amid broader shifts in public opinion. We draw on survey response theory to help reconcile this debate. We then analyze data from an October 2016 probability-based survey experiment (n = 1461 US adults) to test the prediction that the US public (and particularly, Republicans) continue to respond differently when asked whether global warming vs. climate change exists. Indeed, respondents who were asked about climate change responded “Yes” (definitely or somewhat) more often (85.8%) than respondents who were asked about global warming (80.9%), an effect observed for Republicans (74.4 vs. 65.5%) but not Democrats (94% in both conditions). We discuss broader implications for US public opinion and discourse in an era of significant proposed government rollbacks of climate and environmental policy.