Skip to main content


Log in

Public support for global warming policies: solution framing matters

  • Published:
Climatic Change Aims and scope Submit manuscript


One of the biggest challenges to sustainability is lack of public support for policies needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Across three studies, we explored how solution framing impacts public support for financially costly policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Study 1 analyzed data from a statewide public opinion poll (N = 771), while studies 2 (N = 100) and 3 (N = 163) were laboratory-based experiments. Specifically, we found that polling questions that asked about a financially costly climate change policy received more support when the goal of the policy was to create efficient technologies than when the goal was to curtail behavior. In addition, we replicate previous research showing that there is a partisan gap for beliefs about global warming and extend this research to show that the partisan gap is not found when looking at support for solutions. The implications of these results for promoting needed climate change policies is discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. 759 respondents completed the survey, 2 partially completed 80% or more, and 10 completed 50–80%.

  2. The cooperation rate is calculated by taking completed surveys as a percentage of all eligible individuals contacted. Additional support for the representativeness of the poll comes from its ability to accurately predict election outcomes. In 2006, the Arkansas Poll correctly predicted three out of three election-related outcomes: the election of Governor Mike Beebee and two ballot initiatives (Parry, J., personal communication, January 11, 2019).


  • Ball M (2015) How gay marriage became a constitutional right: the untold story of the improbable campaign that finally tipped the U.S. Supreme Court. The Atlantic. Retrieved on April 22, 2019 from

  • Bargh JA (1996) Automaticity in social psychology. In: Higgins ET, Kruglanski A (eds) Social psychology : handbook of basic principles. Guilford Press, New York, pp 169–183

    Google Scholar 

  • Baumer EP, Polletta F, Pierski N, Gay GK (2017) A simple intervention to reduce framing effects in perceptions of global climate change. Environ Commun 11(3):289–310

    Google Scholar 

  • Burstein P (2003) The impact of public opinion on public policy: a review and an agenda. Polit Res Q 56(1):29–40

    Google Scholar 

  • Clarke CE, Hart PS, Schuldt JP, Evensen DT, Boudet HS, Jacquet JB, Stedman RC (2015) Public opinion on energy development: the interplay of issue framing, top-of-mind associations, and political ideology. Energy Policy 81:131–140

    Google Scholar 

  • Davis JJ (1995) The effects of message framing on response to environmental communications. J Mass Commun Quart 72(2):285–299

    Google Scholar 

  • Dietz T, Gardner GT, Gilligan J, Stern PC, Vandenbergh MP (2009) Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce US carbon emissions. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106(44):18452–18456

    Google Scholar 

  • Dreyer SJ, Walker I (2013) Acceptance and support of the Australian carbon policy. Soc Justice Res 26(3):343–362

    Google Scholar 

  • Dreyer SJ, Teisl MF, McCoy SK (2015a) Are acceptance, support, and the factors that affect them, different? Examining perceptions of US fuel economy standards. Transp Res Part D: Transp Environ 39:65–75

    Google Scholar 

  • Dreyer SJ, Walker I, McCoy SK, Teisl MF (2015b) Australians’ views on carbon pricing before and after the 2013 federal election. Nat Clim Chang 5(12):1064

    Google Scholar 

  • Druckman JN (2001) On the limits of framing effects: who can frame? J Polit 63(4):1041–1066

    Google Scholar 

  • Dunlap RE, McCright AM (2008) A widening gap: republican and democratic views on climate change. Environ Sci Policy Sustain Dev 50(5):26–35

    Google Scholar 

  • Dunlap RE, Xiao C, McCright AM (2001) Politics and environment in America: partisan and ideological cleavages in public support for environmentalism. Environ Polit 10(4):23–48

    Google Scholar 

  • Dunlap RE, McCright AM, Yarosh JH (2016) The political divide on climate change: partisan polarization widens in the US. Environ Sci Policy Sustain Dev 58(5):4–23

    Google Scholar 

  • Egan PJ, Mullin M (2017) Climate change: US public opinion. Annu Rev Polit Sci 20:209–227

    Google Scholar 

  • Eitches E, Crain V (2016) Using gasoline data to explain inelasticity. United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on April 22, 2019 from

  • Friedman B (2009) The will of the people: how public opinion has influenced the Supreme Court and shaped the meaning of the constitution. Macmillan

  • Gifford R, Comeau LA (2011) Message framing influences perceived climate change competence, engagement, and behavioral intentions. Glob Environ Chang 21(4):1301–1307

    Google Scholar 

  • Gromet DM, Kunreuther H, Larrick RP (2013) Political ideology affects energy-efficiency attitudes and choices. Proc Natl Acad Sci 110(23):9314–9319

    Google Scholar 

  • Guarino B, Dennis B (2017) Climate change fueling disasters, disease in ‘potentially irreversible’ ways, report warns. Retrived on April 22, 2019 from

    Google Scholar 

  • Hardisty DJ, Johnson EJ, Weber EU (2010) A dirty word or a dirty world? Attribute framing, political affiliation, and query theory. Psychol Sci 21(1):86–92

    Google Scholar 

  • Hays SP, Esler M, Hays CE (1996) Environmental commitment among the states: integrating alternative approaches to state environmental policy. Publius J Federalism 26(2):41–58

    Google Scholar 

  • IPCC (2018) Summary for policymakers. In: Masson-Delmotte V, P Zhai, H-O Pörtner, D Roberts, J Skea, PR Shukla, A Pirani, W Moufouma-Okia, C Péan, R Pidcock, S Connors, JBR Matthews, Y Chen, X Zhou, MI Gomis, E Lonnoy, T Maycock, M Tignor, and T Waterfield (eds) Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, 32 pp

  • Kahneman D, Tversky A (1979) Prospect theory: an analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica 47:263–291

    Google Scholar 

  • Kamisar B (2018) Deep partisan divisions drive sentiment on climate change. Last accessed on February 22, 2019 from

    Google Scholar 

  • Leiserowitz A, Maibach E, Roser-Renouf C, Rosenthal S, Cutler M, Kotcher J (2018) Climate change in the American mind: March 2018. Yale University and George Mason University, Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, New Haven, CT

    Google Scholar 

  • Marron DB, Morris AC (2016) How should governments use revenue from corrective taxes? Retrieved on April 22, 2019 from

  • McCright AM (2010) The effects of gender on climate change knowledge and concern in the American public. Popul Environ 32(1):66–87

    Google Scholar 

  • McCright AM, Dunlap RE (2011a) The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public's views of global warming, 2001–2010. Sociol Q 52(2):155–194

    Google Scholar 

  • McCright AM, Dunlap RE (2011b) Cool dudes: the denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States. Glob Environ Chang 21(4):1163–1172

    Google Scholar 

  • McCright AM, Dunlap RE, Marquart-Pyatt ST (2016) Political ideology and views about climate change in the European Union. Environ Polit 25(2):338–358

    Google Scholar 

  • Nisbet MC (2009) Communicating climate change: why frames matter for public engagement. Environ Sci Policy Sustain Dev 51(2):12–23

    Google Scholar 

  • Nisbet MC, Myers T (2007) The polls—trends: twenty years of public opinion about global warming. Public Opin Quart 71(3):444–470

    Google Scholar 

  • Page BI, Shapiro RY (1983) Effects of public opinion on policy. Am Polit Sci Review 77(01):175–190

    Google Scholar 

  • Parry JA & Schreckhise B (2006) The Arkansas poll, 2006 summary report. Retrieved on January 11, 2017 from:

  • Parry, J. A. (2016). The Arkansas Poll, 2006 Summary Report. Retrieved on April 22, 2019 from:

  • Pew Research Center (2015) A deep dive into party affiliation. Retrieved from:

  • Quinnipiac University Poll (2017) Two-thirds of U.S. voters take climate personally, Quinnipiac University National Poll finds. Last accessed on February 22, 2019 from

  • Scannell L, Gifford R (2013) Personally relevant climate change: the role of place attachment and local versus global message framing in engagement. Environ Behav 45(1):60–85

    Google Scholar 

  • Schuldt JP, Roh S, Schwarz N (2015) Questionnaire design effects in climate change surveys: implications for the partisan divide. Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci 658(1):67–85

    Google Scholar 

  • Schuldt JP, Enns PK, Cavaliere V (2017) Does the label really matter? Evidence that the US public continues to doubt “global warming” more than “climate change”. Clim Chang:1–10

  • Sides J (2013) What if marriage equality is loving instead of roe? The Monkey Cage. Retrieved on April 22, 2019 from

  • Sniderman PM & Theriault SM (2004) The structure of political argument and the logic of issue framing. Studies in public opinion: Attitudes, nonattitudes, measurement error, and change. pp 133–65

  • Steg L, Dreijerink L, Abrahamse W (2006) Why are energy policies acceptable and effective? Environ Behav 38(1):92–111

    Google Scholar 

  • Stern PC (2000) Psychology and the science of human-environment interactions. Am Psychol 55(5):523–530

    Google Scholar 

  • Stimson JA, MacKuen MB, Erikson RS (1995) Dynamic representation. Am Polit Sci Rev 89(03):543–565

    Google Scholar 

  • The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (2014-2019) Is the public willing to pay to help fix climate change? Last accessed on February 22, 2019 from:

  • Thorndike J (2013) The gas tax doesn’t work because politicians broke it. Last accessed on July 26, 2017 from

  • Tranter B (2013) The great divide: political candidate and voter polarisation over global warming in Australia. Aust J Polit Hist 59(3):397–413

    Google Scholar 

  • United States Energy Information Administration (2014) Gasoline prices tend to have little effect on demand for car travel. Retrived on April 22, 2019 from

  • Vandeweerdt C, Kerremans B, Cohn A (2016) Climate voting in the US congress: the power of public concern. Environ Polit 25(2):268–288

    Google Scholar 

  • Villar A, Krosnick JA (2011) Global warming vs. climate change, taxes vs. prices: does word choice matter? Clim Chang 105(1):1–12

    Google Scholar 

  • Voeten E (2013) How the supreme court responds to public opinion. Washington Monthly. Retrieved on April 22, 2019 from

  • Watts N, Adger WN, Ayeb-Karlsson S, Bai Y, Byass P, Campbell-Lendrum D, … & Depoux A (2017) The lancet countdown: tracking progress on health and climate change. Lancet 389(10074): 1151–1164

  • Yeager DS, Larson SB, Krosnick JA, Tompson T (2011) Measuring Americans’ issue priorities a new version of the most important problem question reveals more concern about global warming and the environment. Public Opin Quart 75(1):125–138

    Google Scholar 

Download references


Study 1 was supported by an in-kind grant from the Blair Center’s Arkansas Poll at the University of Arkansas. We would like to thank Donna Rupp for her assistance with manuscript preparation. Michael Jenkins and two anonymous reviewers provided valuable feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript.


This research was supported, in part, by an in-kind grant from the Blair Center’s Arkansas Poll at the University of Arkansas.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jessica M. Nolan.

Ethics declarations

This research complied with ethical standards for research with human subjects, including obtaining voluntary participation in study 1 and informed consent in studies 2 and 3.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Nolan, J.M., Tobia, S.E. Public support for global warming policies: solution framing matters. Climatic Change 154, 493–509 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: