This paper presents results from a survey on attitudes toward climate change in Alberta, Canada, home to just 10% of Canada’s population, but the source of 35% of the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions (Environment Canada 2011). Results show high levels of awareness, but much lower levels of perceived climate change impacts for one’s self or region. Women expressed significantly greater awareness and sense of perceived impacts about climate change than men; however, gender differences appear predominantly associated with socioeconomic factors. Indeed, in all, political ideology had the strongest predictive value, with individuals voting for the conservative party significantly less likely to anticipate significant societal climate change impacts. This finding, in turn, is strongly associated with beliefs regarding whether climate change is human induced. Particularly notable is the finding that the gender gap in climate change beliefs and perceived impacts is not attributed to gendered social roles, as indicated by occupational and familial status. Instead, gender distinctions appear to be related to the lower tendency for women to ascribe to a conservative political ideology relative to men.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
A separate survey conducted two years later showed little change in several indicators, suggesting attitude consistency over time; however we opted to use the earlier data because of the presence of certain variables of interest.
Past surveys have indicated that 60% of the time, the first household contact is female. The respondent selection process works best when calls are made in the evenings and on weekends. Some daytime interviewing shifts were also scheduled during weekdays to eliminate non-eligible telephone numbers (e.g. businesses) as well as interview eligible respondents.
Agarwal, B. (1992). The gender and environment debate: Lessons from India. Feminist Studies, 18(1), 119–156.
Albrecht, D. E., Albrecht, C. M., & Albrecht, S. L. (2000). Poverty in nonmetropolitan America: Impacts of industrial, employment, and family structure variables. Rural Sociology, 65(1), 87–103.
Apter, T. (1994). Working women don’t have wives: Professional success in the 1990’s. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Benford, R. D., Moore, H. A., & Williams, J. A., Jr. (1993). In whose backyard? Concern about siting a nuclear waste facility. Sociological Inquiry, 63, 30–48.
Biel, A., & Nilsson, A. (2005). Religious values and environmental concern: Harmony and detachment. Social Science Quarterly, 86(1), 178–191.
Blocker, T. J., & Eckberg, D. L. (1989). Environmental issues and women’s issues: General concerns and local hazards. Social Science Quarterly, 90(3), 586–593.
Blocker, T. J., & Eckberg, D. L. (1997). Gender and environmentalism: Results from the 1993 general social survey. Social Science Quarterly, 78(4), 841–858.
Bord, R. J., & O’Connor, R. E. (1992). Determinants of risk perceptions of a hazardous waste site. Risk Analysis, 12(3), 411–416.
Bottero, W. (2000). Gender and the labour market at the turn of the century: Complexity, ambiguity and change. Work, Employment & Society, 14(4), 781–791.
Brechin, S. R. (2003). Comparative public opinion and knowledge on global climatic change and the Kyoto Protocol: The US versus the rest of the world? International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 23(10), 106–134.
Cable, S. (1992). Women’s social movement involvement: The role of structural availability in recruitment and participation processes. Sociological Quarterly, 33(1), 35–50.
Cecil, B., Diaz, P., Gauthier, D., Piwowar, J., & Sauchyn, D. (2005). Social dimensions of the impact of climate change on water supply and use in the City of Regina. Regina: The Centre for Sustainable Communities and the Canadian Plains Research Centre, University of Regina.
Clark, C. F., Kotchen, M. J., & Moore, M. R. (2003). Internal and external influences on proenvironmental behavior: Participation in a green electricity program. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23(3), 237–246.
Davidson, D. J., & Freudenburg, W. R. (1996). Gender and environmental risk concerns: A review and analysis of available concerns. Environment and Behavior, 28(3), 302–339.
Davidson, D. J., Williamson, T., & Parkins, J. R. (2003). Understanding climate change risk and vulnerability in northern forest-based communities. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 33(11), 2252–2261.
Dessai, S., Adger, W. N., Hulme, M., Turnpenny, J., Köhler, J., & Warren, R. (2004). Defining and experiencing dangerous climate change. Climatic Change, 64(1–2), 11–25.
Desvouges, W. H., Kunreuther, H., Slovic, P., & Rosa, E. A. (1993). Perceived risk and attitudes toward nuclear wastes: National and Nevada perspectives. In R. E. Dunlap, M. E. Kraft, & E. A. Rosa (Eds.), Public reactions to nuclear waste: Citizens’ views of repository siting (pp. 175–208). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Dietz, T., Stern, P. C., & Guagnano, G. A. (1998). Social structural and social psychological bases of environmental concern. Environment and Behavior, 30(4), 450–471.
Douglas, M., & Wildavsky, A. (1982). Risk and culture: An essay on the selection of technological and environmental dangers. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Downing, P., & Ballantyne, J. (2007). Tipping point or turning point? Ipsos-Mori social research institute. http://www.lowcvp.org.uk/assets/reports/IPSOS_MORI_turning-point-or-tipping-point.pdf. Accessed October 12, 2011.
Dunlap, R. E. (1998). Lay perceptions of global risk. International Sociology, 13(4), 473–498.
Dunlap, R., & McCright, A. (2008). A widening gap: Republican and Democratic views on climate change. Environment, 50(5), 26–35.
Dunlap, R., & Scarce, R. (1991). The polls: Environmental problems and protection. Public Opinion Quarterly, 55, 652.
Edlund, L., & Pande, R. (2002). Why have women become left-wing? The political gender gap and the decline in marriage. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 111(3), 917–961.
Environment Canada. (2011). National inventory report 1990–2009: Greenhouse gas sources and sinks in Canada. Available at http://www.ec.gc.ca/Publications/. Accessed October 12, 2011.
Ellison, C. G., & Sherkat, D. E. (2007). Structuring the religion-environment connection: Identifying religious influences on environmental concern and activism. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 46(1), 71–85.
Eurobarometer. (2009). Special Eurobarometer 300. Europeans’ attitudes towards climate change. Brussels: European Commission.
Freudenburg, W. R., & Davidson, D. J. (2007). Nuclear families and nuclear risks: The effects of gender, geography, and progeny on attitudes toward a nuclear waste facility. Rural Sociology, 72(2), 215–243.
Government of Alberta. (2007). A workforce strategy for Alberta’s energy sector. Available online at http://employment.alberta.ca/documents/WIA/WIA-BETW_energy_strategy.pdf. Accessed February 11, 2010.
Government of Alberta. (2011). Alberta economic quick facts. Available at http://albertacanada.com/documents/SP-EH_AlbertaEconomicQuickFacts.pdf. Accessed October 12, 2011.
Gow, J., & Leahy, T. (2005). Apocalypse probably: Agency and environmental risk in the hunter region. Journal of Sociology, 41(2), 117–141.
Hamilton, L. C. (1985a). Concern about toxic wastes: Three demographic predictors. Sociological Perspectives, 28(4), 463–486.
Hamilton, L. C. (1985b). Who cares about water pollution? Opinions in a small-town crisis. Sociological Inquiry, 55(2), 170–181.
Hamilton, L. C. (2008). Who cares about polar regions? Results from a survey of US public opinion. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 40(4), 671–678.
Kasperson, R. E., & Kasperson, J. X. (1991). Hidden hazards. In D. G. Mayo & R. D. Hollander (Eds.), Acceptable evidence: Science and values in risk management (pp. 9–28). New York: Oxford University Press.
Kellstedt, P. M., Zahran, S., & Vedlitz, A. (2008). Personal efficacy, the information environment, and attitudes toward global warming and climate change in the United States. Risk Analysis, 28(1), 113–126.
Krannich, R. S., & Albrecht, S. L. (1995). Opportunity-threat responses to nuclear waste disposal facilities. Rural Sociology, 60(3), 435–453.
Lazo, J. K., Kinnell, J. C., & Fisher, A. (2000). Expert and layperson perceptions of ecosystem risk. Risk Analysis, 20(2), 179–193.
Leiserowitz, A. (2006). Climate change risk perception and policy preferences: The role of affect, imagery and values. Climatic Change, 77, 45–72.
Lindell, M. K., & Perry, R. W. (2000). Household adjustment to earthquake hazard. A review of research. Environment and Behaviour, 32(4), 461–501.
Lindsey, L. L. (1997). Gender roles: A sociological perspective (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Lorenzoni, L. (2003). Present Choices, Future Climates: A cross-cultural study of perceptions in Italy and in the UK. Doctoral Thesis, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.
Lorenzoni, I., Lowe, T., & Pidgeon, N. (2005a). A strategic assessment of scientific and behavioural perspectives on ‘dangerous’ climate change. Norwich, UK: Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Technical Report 28.
Lorenzoni, I., Pidgeon, N., & O’Connor, R. E. (2005b). Dangerous climate change: The role for risk research. Risk Analysis, 25(6), 1387–1398.
Lupton, D., & Tulloch, J. (2002). ‘Risk is part of your life’: Risk epistemologies among a group of Australians. Sociology, 36(2), 317–334.
Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., & Leiserowitz, A. (2009). Global warming’s six Americas 2009: An audience segmentation analysis. Yale project on climate change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/05/pdf/6americas.pdf.
McCright, A. (2010). The effects of gender on climate change knowledge and concern in the American public. Population and Environment, 32(1), 66–87.
McDaniels, T., Axelrod, L. J., & Slovic, P. (1996). Perceived ecological risks of global change: A psychometric comparison of causes and consequences. Global Environmental Change, 6(2), 159–171.
McStay, J. R., & Dunlap, R. E. (1983). Male-female differences in concern for environmental quality. International Journal of Women’s Studies, 6(4), 291–301.
Merchant, C. (1980). The death of nature: Women, ecology and the scientific revolution. San Francisco: Harper and Row.
Mitchell, R. C. (1984). Rationality and irrationality in the public’s perception of nuclear power. In W. R. Freudenburg & E. A. Rosa (Eds.), Public reactions toward nuclear power: Are there critical masses? (pp. 137–179). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
O’Connor, R. E., Bord, R. J., Fisher, A., Staneva, M., Kozhouharova-Zhivkova, V., & Dobreva, S. (1999). Determinants of support for climate change policies in Bulgaria and the USA. Risk Decision and Policy, 4(3), 255–269.
O’Riordan, T., & Jordan, A. (1995). The precautionary principle in contemporary environmental policy and politics. Environmental Values, 4(3), 191–212.
Perron, B., Vaillancourt, J., & Durand, C. (2001). A global problem for a global movement? An exploratory study of climate change perception by green groups’ leaders from Quebec (Canada) and Costa Rica. Society and Natural Resources, 14, 837–855.
Pew Research Center (Pew). (2009). Fewer Americans see solid evidence of global warming. http://people-press.org/report/556/global-warming.
Plotnikoff, R. C., Wright, M., & Karunamuni, N. (2004). Knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to climate change in Alberta, Canada: Implications for public health policy and practice. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 14(3), 223–229.
Poortinga, W., & Pidgeon, N. F. (2003). Public perceptions of risk, science and governance. Main findings of a British survey on five risk cases. Technical Report. Norwich: Centre for Environmental Risk, University of East Anglia.
Roberts, J. T. (1997). Negotiating both sides of the plant gate: Gender, hazardous facility workers and community responses to technological hazards. Current Sociology, 45(3), 157–177.
Slovic, P. (2000). In R. E. Löfstedt (Eds.), The perception of risk. Risk and society policy series. London: Earthscan Publications.
Spence, A., Venables, D., Pidgeon, N., Poortinga, W., & Demski, C. (2010). Public perceptions of climate change and energy futures in Britain: Summary findings of a survey conducted in January–March 2010. Technical Report (Understanding risk working paper 10-01). Cardiff: School of Psychology.
Spies, S., Murdock, S. H., White, S., Krannich, R., Wulfhorst, J. D., Wrigley, K., et al. (1998). Support for waste facility siting: Differences between community leaders and residents. Rural Sociology, 63(1), 65–93.
Statistics Canada. (2006). Census of Canada. Available at http://www12.statcan.ca/english/census06/data/profiles/community. Accessed September 29, 2008.
Stedman, R. C., Davidson, D. J., & Wellstead, A. (2004). Risk and climate change: perceptions of key policy actors in Canada. Risk Analysis, 24(5), 1393–1404.
Stern, P. C. (2000). Toward a coherent theory of environmentally significant behavior. Journal of Social Issues, 56(3), 407–424.
Stern, P. C., Dietz, T., Abel, T., Guagnano, G. A., & Kalof, L. (1999). A value-belief-norm theory of support for social movements: The case of environmentalism. Human Ecology Review, 6(2), 81–97.
Stern, P. C., Dietz, T., & Kaloff, L. (1993). Value orientations, gender and environmental concern. Environment and Behavior, 25(3), 322–348.
Stout-Wiegand, N., & Trent, R. B. (1983). Sex differences in attitudes toward new energy resource developments. Rural Sociology, 48(4), 637–646.
Thompson, M., Rayner, S., & Ney, S. (1998). Risk and governance part II: Policy in a complex and plurally perceived world. Government and Opposition, 33(2), 139–166.
Tjernstrom, E., & Tietenberg, T. (2008). Do differences in attitudes explain differences in national climate change policies? Ecological Economics, 65, 315–324.
Upham, P., Whitmarsh, L., Poortinga, W., Purdam, K., Darnton, A., McLachlan, C., Devine-Wright, P. (2009). Public attitudes to environmental change: A selective review of theory and practice. A research synthesis for the living with environmental change programme, Research Councils UK. www.lwec.org.uk.
Wakefield, S. E. L., Elliott, S. J., Cole, D. C., & Eyles, J. D. (2001). Environmental risk and (re)action: Air quality, health, and civic involvement in an urban industrial neighborhood. Health and Place, 7(3), 163–177.
White, L., & Rogers, S. J. (2000). Economic circumstances and family outcomes: A review of the 1990s. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62(4), 1035–1051.
Whitmarsh, L. (2008). Are flood victims more concerned about climate change than other people? The role of direct experience in risk perception and behavioural response. Journal of Risk Research, 11(3), 351–374.
Whitmarsh, L. (2009). Behavioural responses to climate change: Asymmetry of intentions and impacts. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29, 13–23.
Whitmarsh, L. (2011). Scepticism and uncertainty about climate change: Dimensions, determinants and change over time. Global Environmental Change (in press).
Wulfhorst, J. D., & Krannich, R. S. (1999). Effects on collective morale from technological risk. Society and Natural Resources, 12(1), 1–18.
Zahran, S., Brody, S., Grover, H., & Vedlitz, A. (2006). Climate change vulnerability and policy support. Society and Natural Resources, 19(9), 771–789.
Funding for this research was provided by the Alberta Ministry of Environment. All research conducted with the approval of the University of Alberta Research Ethics Board.
About this article
Cite this article
Davidson, D.J., Haan, M. Gender, political ideology, and climate change beliefs in an extractive industry community. Popul Environ 34, 217–234 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11111-011-0156-y
- Climate change
- Political ideology
- Environmental concern
- Alberta, Canada