Ideology, Religion Shape Attitudes toward Climate Change

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), September 21, 2009 | Go to article overview

Ideology, Religion Shape Attitudes toward Climate Change


Byline: Bob Doppelt For The Register-Guard

As the U.S. Senate gears up to consider the Waxman- Markey climate protection bill this fall, we should expect to hear heightened denials about the reality of human-induced global warming.

New research suggests, however, that the global warming debate is much less about science than it is about ideology.

The Center for Climate Change Communications at George Mason University recently joined former Eugene resident Tony Leiserowitz, now director of the Yale University Project on Climate Change, to produce a study describing where Americans stand on global warming. It found that the public can be grouped into six audiences, each of which responds to the issue in its own unique way.

The first group, which the researchers call the Alarmed, constitutes 18 percent of Americans. Members of this group are convinced of the reality and seriousness of global warming and are addressing the problem through their personal, purchasing and political activities.

Among their many traits, the Alarmed tend to be moderate to liberal Democrats who are active in their communities. They are likely to be well-educated college women in their 50s and 60s with relatively strong egalitarian values. They also value environmental protection over economic growth.

Of all six groups, the Alarmed are the least likely to attend religious services or to describe themselves as "born again" or evangelical Christians.

The second group, called the Concerned, is the largest, representing 33 percent of all Americans. They also are convinced that human-caused global warming is happening and is a serious problem, but they are not engaged in the issue personally.

The Concerned represent all genders, ages, incomes, educational levels and ethnicities. In general, however, they are likely to be moderate Democrats or independents, favor egalitarian values, and prioritize environmental protection over economic growth. Relatively few regularly attend religious services or describe themselves as evangelical.

In essence, the researchers found that half the American public is convinced global warming is happening and see it as a serious problem, although only 20 percent are actively engaged in the issue.

The George Mason/Yale study found that three other groups of Americans could be considered in the middle of the spectrum regarding their understanding and concern about global warming.

The Cautious, representing 19 percent of Americans, believe that global warming is a problem, although they are less certain than the first two groups and don't feel an urgent need to address it. This group is evenly divided between moderate Democrats and Republicans. Members are only modestly involved in civic issues and have traditional religious beliefs. …

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Ideology, Religion Shape Attitudes toward Climate Change
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