Global Warming: The More You Know the Less You Care

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, March 27, 2008 (ENS) - A new public opinion poll has found that the more people know about global warming, the less they care.

A telephone survey of 1,093 Americans by two Texas A&M University political scientists and a former colleague indicates that trend, as explained in their recent article in the peer-reviewed journal "Risk Analysis."

"More informed respondents both feel less personally responsible for global warming, and also show less concern for global warming," states the article, titled "Personal Efficacy, the Information Environment, and Attitudes toward Global Warming and Climate Change in the USA."

The study showed that high levels of confidence in scientists among Americans led to a decreased sense of responsibility for global warming.

The diminished concern and sense of responsibility flies in the face of awareness campaigns about climate change.

The research was conducted by Paul Kellstedt, a political science associate professor at Texas A&M; Arnold Vedlitz, Bob Bullock Chair in Government and Public Policy at Texas A&Mís George Bush School of Government and Public Service; and Sammy Zahran, formerly of Texas A&M and now an assistant professor of sociology at Colorado State University.

Paul Kellstedt was surprised by the results of the public opinion poll. (Photo courtesy Wheaton Alumni)

Kellstedt says the findings were unexpected. The focus of the study, he says, was not to measure how informed or how uninformed Americans are about global warming, but to understand why some individuals who are more or less informed about it showed more or less concern.

"In that sense, we didn't really have expectations about how aware or unaware people were of global warming," he says.

But, he adds, "The findings that the more informed respondents were less concerned about global warming, and that they felt less personally responsible for it, did surprise us. We expected just the opposite.

"The findings, while rather modest in magnitude, were statistically quite robust, which is to say that they continued to appear regardless of how we modeled the data," said Kellstedt.

Measuring knowledge about global warming is a tricky business, Kellstedt said.

"There are no industry standards, so to speak, for measuring knowledge about global warming," he said. "We opted for this straightforward measure and realize that other measures might produce different results."

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