Lateral attitude change on environmental issues: implications for the climate change debate

  • Shannon M. CruzEmail author


As it becomes increasingly urgent to address climate change, scholars have begun to explore how attitudes toward climate change are shaped, including the influence of messages people hear in the context of the ongoing climate change debate. What has not yet been addressed, however, is how these arguments might be affecting not only climate change attitudes (direct attitude change), but other environmental attitudes as well (lateral attitude change). To explore this possibility, two experimental studies were conducted in which participants read a message either supporting or opposing climate change action. Attitudes toward climate change, the closely related issues of recycling and alternative energy, and the distantly related issues of mandatory vaccination and gun control were assessed before and after message exposure. Results indicated that lateral attitude change (specifically, generalization) occurred for recycling and alternative energy, but not vaccination or gun control. Several possible moderators of these effects were explored, but were found to have only a limited impact. General implications for public opinion are discussed.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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