What does politics must do with it? – Watts with that?

This story from Portland State University looks at first glance like another typical story of social science research, how to finally get through to these cave climate deniers, turns out to be actually interesting.

It seems that the researchers were honest enough in their study design that they got very close to the truth.

“The most interesting thing for me is that liberals and conservatives only look at climate science from a completely different epistemological point of view,” says Suldovsky of the results.

The study design appears to be open to multiple viewpoints rather than just forcing surveys to get the results they are hoping for.

To learn more about how liberals and conservatives differ in their attitudes towards climate change, Suldovksy and Taylor-Rodriguez created an online survey that was completed by 1,049 Oregonians. Participants ranged from 18 to 86 years old and accurately reflected the state’s demographics in terms of gender, race, age, and education. There were also numerous representatives of various political groups; 43% of the participants were moderates, 30% liberals and 27% conservatives.

The survey asked participants how they thought about climate change and included questions about how sure they were that climate change is happening; how complicated or complex they think climate science is; and whom they rely on to provide them with knowledge about climate change – their own direct experiences or experts. The survey also measured how respondents like to engage with climate science. The researchers then used a statistical tool called multivariate regression to find out which factors predicted engagement preferences.

Liberals seemed eager to bow to perceived authority, while research showed conservatives tended to be natural skeptics, although the study authors didn’t put it that way, I pointed out.

The poll showed that liberals view climate science and climate change as safe and easy. They do not think that it is very complicated to understand, nor do they believe that it will be refuted in the future. Liberals also disapprove of scientific experts on climate change to such an extent that they reported that they would submit to statements made by a scientist on climate change even if it contradicts their own experience.

“That’s pretty daring,” says Suldovsky. “That was pretty shocking to me.”

Conservatives, on the other hand, saw climate science very differently. “They see it as far less secure and much more complex, [the latter] is super interesting because conservatives are more in line with climate scientists this way,“Says Suldowski. Conservatives also rely more on their own direct lived experience to provide them with knowledge of the world and knowledge of climate change.

Here is a link to the paper.

The abstract


Engaging a politically polarized public about climate science is an essential element in efforts to enforce climate change policies. Science communication experts have identified several models of public engagement in science, including the deficit, dialogue, participation and lay skills models. Existing research suggests that the deficit model in particular is a largely ineffective model of engagement for controversial sciences such as climate change. However, there is very little research into the engagement preferences of political groups or how these preferences differ. This study evaluates climate protection preferences in the state of Oregon, United States, and examines the relationship between these preferences and epistemic beliefs about climate science. Overall, we find that liberals are far more likely than moderates or conservatives to view climate science as safe and simple, and to rely more on expert knowledge than on their own direct experience. Conservatives, on the other hand, are far more likely than liberals or moderates to view climate science as uncertain and complex and rely on their own direct experience of the knowledge of content experts. We also find that perceived security and simplicity are positive predictors of a preference for the deficit model of science communication. Implications for public engagement with climate change and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Read the original article here.


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