, Volume 104, Issue 2, pp 243-253
Date: 14 Dec 2010

Political orientation moderates Americans’ beliefs and concern about climate change

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Abstract

I offer some theoretical insights to help us better understand the moderator effect of political orientation that Larry Hamilton and others have found in recent years. Reflexive modernization theory highlights an emerging tension between those who direct attention to the negative consequences of industrial capitalism such as climate change (e.g., the scientific community and environmental organizations) and those who defend the economic system against such critiques (e.g., the conservative movement). Political divisions in the American public increasingly map onto these societal divisions between critics and defenders of the industrial capitalist order—especially for the issue of climate change. This alignment is facilitated by increased polarization among political elites and balkanization of the news media. Strong evidence of the moderator effect is consistent with the expectations of information processing theory and elite cues hypothesis from political science. Recent empirical findings in political psychology and neuroscience also seem pertinent for explaining this moderator effect. I end by outlining a few implications for climate change research and communication.