An End to a Means: Partisanship, Policy Preferences and Global Warming


Moynihan P, Langer G, Craighill P. An End to a Means: Partisanship, Policy Preferences and Global Warming. In: 65th Annual Conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). Chicago, IL; 2010.

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Recent polls have shown significant declines in the expressed belief that global warming is occurring, particularly among conservatives and Republicans – but whether this represents a fundamental shift in the public’s understanding of climate change, or some sort of political calculation, is an open empirical question. While previous public opinion research has explored the political and social determinants of (1) expressed belief in whether global warming is occurring, and (2) policy preferences concerning global warming, the standard explanatory model has been limited to designating the former (expressed belief global warming is occurring) as a predictor of the latter (policy preferences). What has received considerably less attention in the literature is the reverse causal logic – that is, whether or not views on government action to address climate change can predict expressed belief in whether it’s occurring. In this paper we examine the bi-directionality of this relationship, what other factors are most influential in shaping it and the nature of changes over time. We explore these issues using nationally representative ABC News data as well as other contemporaneous national data within the broader context of increasing ideological polarization. The paper concludes with a discussion of the challenges of disentangling the logic of causal order in these data as well as the meaning of expressed “belief” in public opinion polls.
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