New Study: America’s Political Divide on Climate Change Is Bigger Than Ever

partisanshipAs anyone with any interest in politics has noticed, polarization between Democrats and Republicans has escalated in recent decades, as people increasingly view their party affiliation as a key component of their social identity. Gaps are evident on a range of issues, from marriage equality to reproductive rights.
Partisan polarization between Americans on the climate issue is particularly striking  – and the chasm is even greater among elected officials, explaining why the Obama administration has encountered such strong resistance to his policies addressing climate change. This polarization is enhanced by “modified cognition” (the human tendency to seek out information that reinforces your worldview and identity), which in turn is magnified by the increasing ability to surround ourselves with news sources that support our beliefs and to tune out those that do not.
A new study, The Political Divide on Climate Change: Partisan Polarization Widens in the U.S., details this growing partisan divide. Among other discoveries, the researchers found:

  • 84 percent of Democrats but only 43 percent of Republicans believe climate change is the result of human activities
  • 59 percent of Republicans but only 12 percent of Democrats think the media exaggerates climate change
  • More than half of Democrats but less than 25 percent of Republicans see climate change as a threat to their way of life

This polarization poses a special challenge this election year. Even if Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency, her ability to enact meaningful climate legislation will be largely determined by which party controls Congress. Our job as climate communicators is to continue to explain the benefits of solutions in non-partisan ways, and encourage voters who are in favor of climate action to raise their voices, do their homework, and support candidates who will lead on climate.
Image credit: iStock
The Political Divide on Climate Change: Partisan Polarization Widens in The U.S. by Riley E. Dunlap, Aaron M. McCright, and Jerrod H. Yarosh, published by Taylor & Francis , appeared in Volume 58, Issue 5 of Environment. Read the full article online here:

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