06 Feb 2012:
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 sociology professor 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. “The politics overwhelms the science.” The researchers found that Americans were most concerned about the effects of climate change in 2006 and 2007, when Democrats and Republicans showed the most agreement on the issue and the documentary An Inconvenient Truth
was widely viewed. But as climate change has become a more bitterly partisan issue, public concern has declined, Jenkins said. The study found that scientific research and weather events have had little impact on public perception, and that major reports in the popular media have had a small but noticeable impact.
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