A new poll reveals some interesting facts about who the public trusts when it comes to the climate change debate.
The survey is part of an ongoing study that is tracking how each of the “Six Americas” interprets the threats of global warming in the time after the 2008 presidential election. By identifying six different audiences — each of which has a different feeling about climate change ranging from “alarmed” to “dismissive" — researchers hoped to figure out what shapes peoples’ opinions about climate change.
The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media provides background on the methods and purposes of the poll, and the study itself can be found here. Also, Elizabeth McGowan at Solve Climate News does an excellent job of breaking down the study's latest findings.
Here are my three takeaways from the study:
1. Journalists and politicians are not trusted
The survey provided 10 options for respondents to choose from about who they trust to get credible information about climate change. Members of the mainstream media finished ninth out of 10 options in the trust rankings. Members of Congress finished last. Television weather reporters finished eighth.
2. Obama’s rhetoric on climate change is polarizing
How much you trust President Barack Obama on climate change seems to vary based on how much you are worried about climate change. The survey showed that 77 percent of those who say they are “alarmed” about climate change trust Obama. This is interesting when compared to the 21 percent of the “doubtful” population who say they trust him on climate change. Just 3 percent of those who say they are “dismissive” about climate change say they trust the president.
3. Feelings on the local level are strong
Perhaps the least surprising, but still interesting, aspect of the survey is that when global warming is broken down to the local level, even the most skeptical among us want to take some action. Those who were in the “alarmed,” “concerned,” “cautious” and “disengaged” categories all expressed support for taking protective measures in their local communities, especially concerning local water supplies, forests, wildlife, coastlines, sewer systems, public property and farms.
The survey is intriguing because, unlike many studies, the objective isn’t to measure how people feel, but to understand why they feel the way they do. Clearly a huge part of this is trust. Another factor is if you view the issue as global or local.
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