Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 409–422 | Cite as

Political ideologies and the objective measurement of climate-related risks to coastal resources

  • Jordan W. SmithEmail author
  • Karly Bitsura-Meszaros
  • Erin Seekamp
  • Allie McCreary
  • Kaitlin Burroughs


Nearly all research focused on understanding perceptions of climate-related risks to coastal resources has used data collected via mail surveys, online surveys or in-depth qualitative interviews. To compliment previous research, this study focuses on objective perceptions of climate-related risks to coastal resources as measured by respondents’ gaze behavior when viewing images describing or depicting climate-related impacts to coastal resources. We utilize data collected from a survey paired with an eye tracking session to measure perceptions of climate-related risks to coastal resources. We also compare the gaze behavior of liberals and conservatives when viewing an infographic and a digital photograph illustrating climate-related impacts to coastal resources; these included impacts to: 1) abiotic resources; 2) biotic resources; 3) built infrastructure; and 4) recreation opportunities. Survey data indicate liberal participants believed climate-related risks to all four types of impacts were more serious relative to conservative participants. However, eye tracking data revealed both liberal and conservative participants spent an equivalent amount of time viewing the four types of impacts. Consequently, differences in the extent to which liberals and conservatives perceive climate-related risks to coastal resources may be attributable to differences in how the two groups evaluate each of the specific impacts. Eye tracking data also revealed liberal participants noticed impacts to biotic resources faster than conservative participants. Conversely, conservative participants noticed impacts to built infrastructure faster than liberal participants. The practical implications of these findings are noteworthy: climate change communicators should target messages based on the predominant political ideology of their audience or include both biotic and built infrastructure impacts in their messages to capture wider audiences.


Biased assimilation Eye tracking Risk perceptions Coastal hazards 



This research was supported by NC State University’s Center for Geospatial Analytics. The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Laura Tateosian and Ms. Michelle Glatz for reviewing previous versions of the manuscript and assisting with data collection. The authors would also like to acknowledge Rosemary Keane for assisting with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jordan W. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • Karly Bitsura-Meszaros
    • 2
  • Erin Seekamp
    • 2
  • Allie McCreary
    • 2
  • Kaitlin Burroughs
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism and Department of Environment and SocietyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism ManagementNC State UniversityRaleighUSA

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