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The Political Divide on Climate Change: Partisan Polarization Widens in the U.S.

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... Rather, with causes rooted in societal systems of natural resource extraction and energy production within capitalist economic markets, climate change is very much a social issue, and, in the USA, a highly contentious one at that. Since the late 1990s, climate change has been seen as a divisive political issue in the USA (Dunlap et al., 2016), driven in part by efforts of fossil fuel companies and their beneficiaries to call into doubt climate science (Oreskes & Conway, 2011). Contention persists, with political views often a key predictor of US adults' polarized views of climate change (Drummond & Fischhoff, 2017;Ballew et al., 2019). ...
... The analysis presented in this study investigates closely one particular set of intuitive understandings of the social world-assumptions about divisiveness within US society. In my initial analysis (Zummo, 2021), these particular assumptions stood out given both the phenomenon of social divisions in the USA, often termed "culture wars" (e.g., Gerstle, 2022), and the decades-long, well-documented divisions over climate change specifically (e.g., Dunlap et al., 2016). ...
... For example, there is evidence for growing geographic sorting into ideologically homogeneous communities (e.g., Bishop, 2009) and an increasingly extreme degree of conflicting values (Jacoby, 2014). Specifically considering climate change, much research has documented patterns of social division over its severity, reality, and solutions (e.g., Drummond & Fischhoff, 2017;Dunlap et al., 2016;Leiserowitz et al., 2021;Oreskes & Conway, 2011), with these divisions often following partisan and/ or sociopolitical lines. ...
Article
With the continued unfolding of major climatic shifts, questions continue to emerge about how to approach climate change in the science classroom, at least in the USA where it is often perceived as socio-politically controversial. Broadly, research in science education has shown that the learning process around climate change is highly complex and variable, and our understanding of it remains emergent. This study argues that when designing learning experiences for issues like climate change, we must consider students’ prior knowledge of the social world. Using ideology as a theoretical lens, this study then examines discourse data of several classroom elicitation discussions in two sections of a 9th grade US classroom to clarify what intuitive understandings of the social world and assumptions students bring to their classroom learning about climate change. Moment-by-moment discourse analysis shows the emergence of assumptions of a sharply divided social world and the making material of an ideology that reflects these divisions. This study considers implications for such prior knowledge on scientific sensemaking and offers implications for science teaching and future research.
... A major finding has been that concern for climate change is partially driven by signals from elites (Brulle et al 2012, Carmichael and Brulle 2017, Merkley and Stecula 2020, Rinscheid et al 2020, which considerably raises the importance of messaging by federal politicians. While large majorities of citizens aligned with the Democratic Party are already concerned about climate change, Republicans, led by their elected officials, tend to be much more dismissive of the issue (Dunlap et al 2016, Fiorino 2022. However, climate change communication delivered by conservative messengers (and using conservative frames) is more likely to resonate with conservative audiences (Bolsen et al 2019, Hurst and Stern 2020, Goldberg et al 2021 and scientific corrections delivered by Republican elites are more persuasive to Republicans (Benegal and Scruggs 2018). ...
... More broadly, our central finding that party affiliation is the best (tested) predictor of pro-climate voting, is consistent with the well-documented, growing polarization in United States society and Congress (Thomsen 2014, Neal 2020), especially on the issue of climate change (Dunlap et al 2016). Under these conditions it is perhaps unsurprising that legislators' voting records are sorted so strongly along partisan lines. ...
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Legislators who frequently advocate for climate action might be expected to cast more pro-climate votes, but pro-climate messaging alone may not predict actual voting behavior. We analyzed 401 539 tweets posted by 518 United States federal legislators over the 6 months prior to the 2020 election and identified 5350 of these as containing climate-relevant messaging. Of the 4881 tweets that we coded as promoting climate awareness or supporting action (‘pro-climate’), 92% were posted by Democratic legislators while all 138 tweets undermining climate awareness or opposing action (‘anti-climate’) were posted by Republicans. Constituent support for Congressional climate action was only weakly related to the rate of pro-climate tweeting by legislators. Overall, we found that increased pro-climate tweeting was not a significant predictor of pro-climate voting when controlling for party affiliation and constituent support for climate action. We conclude that climate-concerned voters would be best served by using party affiliation rather than climate-related messaging to judge the pro-climate voting intentions of United States legislators.
... Innovative environmental policies, such as green public procurement practices, are central to partisan discussion (Krause 2011). While the issue of climate protection has historically enjoyed bipartisan support, we have recently witnessed an increase in polarisation on environmental policy (Dunlap, McCright, and Yarosh 2016). Therefore, in the current political environment, democrats are more likely to advance environmental policies, while the conservatives are more likely to be against such initiatives (Krause 2011;Dunlap, McCright, and Yarosh 2016). ...
... While the issue of climate protection has historically enjoyed bipartisan support, we have recently witnessed an increase in polarisation on environmental policy (Dunlap, McCright, and Yarosh 2016). Therefore, in the current political environment, democrats are more likely to advance environmental policies, while the conservatives are more likely to be against such initiatives (Krause 2011;Dunlap, McCright, and Yarosh 2016). The external pressures arising from the socio-economic characteristics of the population an agency serves have been viewed as correlated with innovation adoption (Krause 2011;Walker 2014). ...
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Climate change and its outcomes are complex issues facing communities worldwide. Among policy options to address such issues, existing scholarship focuses mainly on regulatory policies. An innovative market-based policy option is green public procurement (GPP), which may induce private companies to voluntarily switch to more environmentally friendly products. The study examines the adoption and diffusion of GPP practices among local governments under the influence of state governments which may have distinct environmental policies and efforts. By drawing on data from an original national survey and supplemental sources and by employing a multilevel regression approach, this paper highlights GPP as an innovative, yet often overlooked, environmental policy option and strategic management tool. Results suggest a bottom-up, grassroots GPP adoption mechanism, emphasising local initiatives, strategic planning, and vision in sustainability advancement.
... . Partisanship may even result in ignoring the truth altogether, as seen with expressive responding (Schaffner & Luks, 2018). When political topics are discussed, it is possible that groups become polarized echo chambers (Barberá et al., 2015;Dunlap et al., 2016;Iyengar & Westwood, 2015;Motyl et al., 2014). 1 However, argue that people are still interested in the truth. Consistent with this idea, Pennycook and Rand (2019) found that analytical thinking is linked to a better ability to discern real news from fake news. ...
Thesis
For over 60 years, inoculation theory has been a key framework to understand resistance to persuasion, yet many critical questions have remained unanswered. This dissertation aims to provide a theoretical and empirical understanding of how resistance to persuasion effects decay over time. In the context of resistance to persuasion by misinformation, I offer 10 empirical experiments that shed new light on this question, including several methodological innovations. In Chapter 2, I propose a new model that integrates memory theories with motivation theories on inoculation. In Chapters 3–6, I evaluate the long-term effectiveness of inoculation in message-based, gamified, and video-based inoculation interventions, unveiling the underlying mechanisms of decay. In Chapter 7, I address methodological issues, including the effects of repeated testing, and unstandardised items, and the development of a new misinformation susceptibility test. In summary, this thesis advances our understanding of the mechanisms of decay in resistance to persuasion, and sheds light on the role of and interplay between memory and motivation. The new memory-motivation model brings a significant advancement to the field, as it taps into the memory literature of forgetting—a domain in cognitive psychology—to shed new light on a concept in social psychology, and enables a new approach to modelling the longevity of inoculation effects. In addition, I offer novel insights into limitations with current methodological paradigms, and demonstrate how new standardised measurement tools can be developed to more accurately map inoculation effects in future research. Finally, I discuss how the findings of this dissertation can inform not only inoculation scholarship, but also intervention designers, evaluators, and policy makers, on how to address the problem of misinformation, and demonstrate how to extend the long-term effects of inoculation in applied interventions.
... Large-scale contextual factors like country-level political culture explain some of the variance in how disaster risk and climate change are viewed. For example, political polling across the last decade has revealed that the United States (especially Republicans, evangelicals, and those who feel economically threatened) reports higher rates of climate change skepticism than other countries (Benegal, 2018;Dunlap et al., 2016;Fagan & Huang, 2019;Shao, 2017). These differences may stem in part from differences in environmental policy platforms between parties: conservative platforms tend to discourage environmental intervention as it is perceived to come at cost of industrialism, while liberal platforms encourage pro-environmentalism and industrial regulation . ...
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People vary in climate change skepticism and in their views on disaster cause and prevention. For example, the United States boasts higher rates of climate skepticism than other countries, especially among Republicans. Research into the individual differences that shape variation in climate-related beliefs represents an important opportunity for those seeking ways to mitigate climate change and climate-related disasters (e.g., floods). In this registered report, we proposed a study examining how individual difference in physical formidability, worldview, and affect relate to attitudes about disaster and climate change. We predicted that highly formidable men would tend to endorse social inequality, hold status quo defensive worldviews, report lower levels of empathy, and report attitudes that promote disaster risk accumulation via lesser support for social intervention. The results of an online study (Study 1) support the notion that men’s self-perceived formidability is related to disaster and climate change beliefs in the predicted direction and that this relationship is mediated by hierarchical worldview and status quo defense but not empathy. An analysis of a preliminary sample for the in-lab study (Study 2) suggests that self-perceived formidability relates to disaster views, climate views, and status quo maintaining worldviews.
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This paper builds on previous literature that suggests ideological orientation is a moderating variable in the relationship between scientific knowledge and belief in anthropogenic climate change (ACC) in the USA. We conduct an exploratory investigation of this causal relationship in Spain, a country characterized by widespread social and political support for the fight against ACC. We sample 604 Spanish citizens and use the OSI 2.0 scale to assess the level of science literacy. Results, checked with regression analysis and a neural network, indicate that the intensity of belief in ACC increases with science literacy for left-leaning individuals, remaining practically unaffected on average for center- or right-leaning ones. However, this lack of an average effect for center- or right-leaning individuals hides the existence of two subgroups: in one, as scientific literacy increases, belief in ACC decreases, and in the other, the exact opposite is true. Thus, we confirm that even in a country with considerable support for the fight against ACC, political ideology plays a moderating role in the relationship between scientific culture and the level of belief in ACC.
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As climate change continues to be politically divisive, developing communications that align with right-leaning beliefs may increase bipartisan support for climate policy. In two experimental studies (Study 1, Australia, N = 558; Study 2, USA, N = 939), we tested whether an economic or national identity loss message would elicit greater support for mitigation and adaptation policies when compared to one another and to a control message. We also tested whether the direct effects of these loss-orientated messages were conditional on political orientation (specifically, identifying as politically right-leaning). In both studies, preliminary analyses indicated that there was a high level of support for both types of climate policy, but when compared to their left-wing counterparts, right-wing adherents were less likely to support mitigation and adaptation policies in either sample. Australian (Study 1) identification—although not American identity (Study 2)—also uniquely predicted adaptation support (but not mitigation support). There were no significant message frame or interaction effects in the Australian (Study 1) or US sample (Study 2). This suggests that neither an economic nor national identity loss message may be effective in overcoming the political polarization of climate change in Australia or the USA. Nevertheless, national identity could still play a useful role in Australian climate communications given its positive relationship to adaptation policy support and therefore warrants further investigation.
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Studies have highlighted the political, economic, and psychological factors in the debate over anthropogenic climate change—a hegemony approach—but have rarely focused on the stories and possibilities of people's transitions from climate change non‐believer to climate change believer. Based on publicly accessible narratives, this study examines the stories of those who have switched from non‐believer to believer—a narrative approach—and the dilemmas involved in those switches. Our investigation illuminates that a transition to climate change believer is a cultural and moral matter based on changing social relations of knowledge and what people regard as ignorable. We find that narratives of transition commonly describe interrelated shifts in three social relational factors: the narrator's notions of self, material reality, and justice. We term this contextualized transformative experience a relational rupture. Our narrative approach thus contextualizes climate change denialism within a person's web of social relations, not the hegemony of climate change communication alone. Moreover, we suggest that, since public debate and polarization on scientific topics such as climate change, vaccination, and COVID‐19 are socially situated, they may potentially be socially bridged.
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