Liberals and Conservatives Differ on Climate Change Beliefs—But Are Relatively United in Taking Action

June 24, 2024

The division between liberals and conservatives on both climate-change beliefs and related policy support is long-standing. However, the results of a newly released global experiment show that despite these differences, the two camps actually align when it comes to taking certain actions to combat climate change. Additionally, the researchers identified which messages—or interventions—can be effective in boosting beliefs in climate change and policy support among both conservatives and liberals. “These results paint an optimistic picture for policymakers and climate activists in their efforts to influence public opinion on climate change and related policies,” says Michael Berkebile-Weinberg, an NYU doctoral student and the paper’s first author. For instance, framing certain actions as a climate change solution can backfire and decrease conservatives’ engagement.

The division between liberals and conservatives on both climate-change beliefs and related policy support is long-standing. However, the results of a newly released global experiment show that despite these differences, the two camps actually align when it comes to taking certain actions to combat climate change.

The study, led by researchers at New York University, finds that when given the opportunity, liberals and conservatives take action to address climate change at roughly the same levels—and that this is due to conservatives choosing to take action despite their climate-change beliefs rather than liberals failing to act on theirs.

“Our work shows a disconnect between beliefs and behaviors among conservatives when it comes to environmental matters while, at the same time, revealing common ground with liberals when it comes to taking action,” explains Madalina Vlasceanu, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology who led the study, which is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Additionally, the researchers identified which messages—or interventions—can be effective in boosting beliefs in climate change and policy support among both conservatives and liberals.

“These results paint an optimistic picture for policymakers and climate activists in their efforts to influence public opinion on climate change and related policies,” says Michael Berkebile-Weinberg, an NYU doctoral student and the paper’s first author. “Several interventions were effective in altering beliefs and policy support across the ideological divide, in liberals and conservatives alike.”

However, the study’s authors caution that the impact of interventions was not uniform. For instance, framing certain actions as a climate change solution can backfire and decrease conservatives’ engagement. For example, informing conservatives that a majority of Americans are concerned about the climate crisis led to them planting fewer trees.

“This suggests that interventions aimed at increasing conservatives’ pro-environmental behaviors should not involve their climate-change beliefs,” explains Danielle Goldwert, the study’s co-lead author and an NYU doctoral student. “Instead, framing climate-change actions as beneficial for ideologically consistent reasons might be more effective in spurring action.”

The findings stem from an experiment involving 50,000 participants across 60 countries, including Algeria, China, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, and the United States.

The source of this news is from New York University

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