Study: Climate Change Beliefs are Less Polarized Among People of Color
As anyone who advocates for climate action (or even reads the news) knows, climate change is a highly politicized topic. Ordinarily, one of the prime indicators of whether or not someone accepts climate change is their political affiliation. But when it comes to people of color, the issue is not as partisan.
A recent study by researchers at Cornell University and Pomona College found less of a correlation among minorities between their politics and their attitudes about climate change.
For many communities of color, climate change is not an abstraction – it’s a daily fact of life. Whatever their other political beliefs, their opinions about climate change are based on the pollution in the air near their homes, or the high levels of asthma among their children. However, as the study also found, while minorities are disproportionately impacted by climate change, they’re less likely than whites to identify as environmentalists. They may feel that the climate movement doesn’t represent them, even though they share the same concerns.
Climate communicators and advocates need to do more to engage those communities and ensure their voices are heard. It’s also good to remember that a healthy world for our families to live in is something we can all relate to, whether we’re liberal or conservative.
By Tom Fleischman, contributor to the Cornell Chronicle
Picture someone who identifies as an “environmentalist,” and you’ve probably got one of several images in your head – a hippie from the 1960s or the child/grandchild of one, maybe a celebrity who has famously taken up the cause, or perhaps a Gen Xer or millennial with liberal leanings.
No matter what mental picture you conjure, it’s probably got one thing in common with others: whiteness.
Non-white minorities statistically are as concerned with climate change as are whites but are less likely to self-identify as environmentalists. This suggests that racial and ethnic representation, in areas of outreach and climate science advocacy, can shape core climate change beliefs in previously overlooked ways. That’s of major importance for a nation that, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, is on track to become a majority-minority nation by the year 2050.
Race and ethnicity as a function of climate-change attitudes is the subject of a recent study by Jonathon Schuldt ’04, assistant professor of communication in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and collaborator Adam Pearson ’03, assistant professor of psychology at Pomona (Calif.) College.
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