Skip to main content

Anomalous Anglophones? Contours of free market ideology, political polarization, and climate change attitudes in English-speaking countries, Western European and post-Communist states


Recent scholarship has thoroughly documented climate change attitudes within the majority of the English-speaking countries of the USA, the UK, Canada, and Australia. In these nations, political identity is widely recognized as a uniquely powerful predictor of climate change attitudes and, at least in the USA, several studies have found that education moderates the effect of political identity. The cross-national dynamics of climate change attitudes and political identity are not well-characterized, particularly in nations with a history of state socialism. In this manuscript, we consider the role of political and free market ideological polarization around climate change within Anglophone, Western European, and post-Communist states. Further, we investigate education as a moderator of political and ideological factors cross-nationally. We suggest that, in comparison to Western European and post-Communist states, the role of political and ideological polarization in Anglophone states is exceptional in shaping climate change attitudes. Using data for 20 countries in the 2010 ISSP Environmental Module, we find that the effect of party affiliation and free market ideology on the perception of climate change’s danger and importance is strongest in Anglophone states, more modest in Western European countries, and limited within post-Communist states. Further, education moderates most intensely in Anglophone states. Our results suggest that there is something exceptional occurring within Anglophone states with regard to political polarization and climate change attitudes.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. Austria (AT), Belgium (BE), Bulgaria (BG), Canada (CA), Czech Republic (CZ), Germany (DE), Denmark (DK), Spain (ES), Finland (FI), France (FR), Great Britain (GB), Croatia (HR), Lithuania (LT), Latvia (LV), New Zealand (NZ), Russia (RU), Sweden (SE), Slovenia (SI), Slovakia (SK), and United States (US).

  2. For further information, please refer to International Social Survey Programme (Environment III, 2010) Study Monitoring documentation.

  3. See Figure A in the electronic supplementary materials.

  4. See Figure B in the electronic supplementary materials.

  5. See ISSP Background Variables report for further detail (ISSP Demographic Methods Group 2009).

  6. Anglophone: CA, GB, NZ, and US

    Western European: AT, BE, DE (West), DK, ES, FI, FR, and SE

    Post-Communist: BG, CZ, DE (East), HR, LV, LT, RU, SI, and SK

  7. Table A in the electronic supplementary materials contains descriptive statistics and item response wording for all variables

  8. Supplementary analyses were performed treating post-materialism as a categorical variable, with negligible substantive changes to the effects of the focal predictors.

  9. The highest ordered response category for climate danger

  10. All focal predictors are treated as continuous variables. We have performed supplementary analysis with these indicators treated as categorical variables as a robustness check, finding very minimal substantive differences. As such, we have adopted the more parsimonious modeling approach.


Download references


This project was partly financially supported by the Leibniz Association (SAW-2017-PIK-4). We are grateful for the valuable comments and suggestions of the editor and the anonymous reviewers.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to E. Keith Smith.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material


(DOCX 64 kb)


(DOCX 118 kb)


(DOCX 14 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Smith, E.K., Mayer, A. Anomalous Anglophones? Contours of free market ideology, political polarization, and climate change attitudes in English-speaking countries, Western European and post-Communist states. Climatic Change 152, 17–34 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: