Political Discourse Driving Public Opinion on Climate, Report Finds

U.S. opinion on climate change over the last decade has been affected more by the discourse of political leaders than by media reports about global warming or extreme weather events, according to a new study. Using results from 74 separate surveys conducted from 2002 to 2010, researchers compiled an index that measured the changing level of concern over global warming and its relation to weather events, access to scientific information, media coverage, advocacy group campaigns, and cues from major political leaders. More than any other single factor, the content and tone of political discourse about climate change impacted public opinion, according to J. Craig Jenkins, a sociologist at Ohio State University and co-author of the study, published in the journal Climate Change. “It is the political leaders in Washington who are really driving public opinion about the treat of climate change,” he said.