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July 27, 2011


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Eric Muller

On the internet everything sounds snarky, and therefore what I'm about to ask will sound snarky, but I mean it in a non-snarky way:

What is fascinating about a finding that white conservative men are the likeliest demographic group to hold this view? Addressing climate change entails regulation of business; conservative white men are the likeliest group on the current political landscape to favor business interests and to oppose regulation of businesses. So the conclusion of this study is exactly what I would have expected.

Is there something interesting here that I'm missing?

Jessica Owley

Good point. First, I am fascinated that they did this study at all. I love social science studies like this. I think it is kind of fun to have empirical research to cite when I make side references to climate change denial.

A couple things that I found particularly engaging about this article:

(1) the discussion of the "white male" effect, apparently a documented phenomenon that white males tend to have atypically high levels of technological and environmental risk acceptance (even when controlling for other factors like education and political ideology). McCright and Dunlap situate their research into this larger picture, perhaps demonstrating that accepting climate change risk is really no different than accepting other risks.There is no discussion specifically about business (perhaps there should have been), but they do discuss the tendency of conservative white males to defend the status quo (because as you note, they tend to do well under the current social and economic systems).

(2) the fact that climate deniers tend to say that they know a lot about climate change. This point seems almost obvious. Few people are going to say "Climate change is not real, but I don't really know that much about the issue." But generally, I wonder if people just tend to think they understand climate change. I have been working with some student surveys trying to assess how much students know about climate change before and after they take classes on climate change. Many of them say they know a lot about it even when they (and the professors) realize during the course of the class that they didn't really understand that much.

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