Predictors of global warming risk perceptions among Latino and non-Latino White Americans

Abstract

Global warming will disproportionately affect people of color (e.g., Latinos). Previous research has found that Latinos in the USA are more engaged with global warming than are non-Latino Whites, in part, because they are more likely to perceive it as a serious risk. It was unclear, however, what factors most strongly explain Latinos’ elevated perceptions of risk. This study uses two parallel, nationally representative surveys of Latino and non-Latino White Americans to investigate these different levels of risk perception. Mediation analyses indicate that Latinos’ greater risk perceptions may be explained by (in order of magnitude) their stronger pro-climate injunctive social norms and egalitarian worldviews, stronger identification with the Democratic party, more frequent communication with family outside the USA, greater harm from environmental hazards, stronger descriptive norms, and a weaker individualist worldview. These findings help inform strategies for communicating with different subgroups of Americans that have different global warming risk perceptions.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    We use the term “global warming” instead of “climate change” throughout the survey instrument because previous research shows that Americans are substantially more likely to have heard of global warming than climate change (Leiserowitz et al. 2014). Further, using the term global warming makes the current research more of a direct comparison to our previous surveys that use the same question wording. However, we acknowledge that this is a limitation for making inferences regarding perceptions of “climate change” (instead of global warming).

  2. 2.

    Because of demographic differences between Latino and non-Latino White samples, demographics (gender, age, education, income, and religious affiliation) were included as covariates in all regression and mediation models even if they did not significantly correlate with risk perceptions.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation, the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the Grantham Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. The scientific results and conclusions, as well as any views or opinions expressed herein, are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of NOAA or the Department of Commerce.

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AL, SAR, and MJC developed the materials, design, and scope of the study. SAR managed the data and participant recruitment. MHG and AG conducted the statistical analyses with input from MTB. MHG drafted the first draft of the manuscript with input from AG and MTB. All authors contributed to the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Matthew H. Goldberg.

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Goldberg, M.H., Gustafson, A., Ballew, M.T. et al. Predictors of global warming risk perceptions among Latino and non-Latino White Americans. Climatic Change 162, 1555–1574 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-020-02728-z

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Global warming
  • Latino
  • Risk perceptions
  • Norms
  • Communication