Most Americans Grossly Underestimate the Popularity of Fighting Climate Change
A new study by researchers at Princeton University shows Americans grossly underestimate how much their fellow citizens support policies addressing climate change.
The study found that while polls show a supermajority of Americans (66% to 80%) support climate action, the average American estimates only a minority does (37% to 43%).
Put differently, despite supporters of climate action outnumbering opponents two to one, Americans falsely perceive nearly the complete opposite to be true.
The researchers labeled the collective ignorance a “false social reality,” finding the misperception existed in every state, across all major climate policies, and among every demographic tested, including political party, race, media consumption, and community type (rural vs. suburban).
The findings showed a link between higher levels of misperception and consuming conservative media, like Fox News and Breitbart, even when controlling for political affiliation.
Why it matters:
The researchers say the findings support a new approach to organizing that focuses on promoting major climate policies that already have high levels of support, like carbon taxes and renewable energy mandates.
They also say media organizations have a role to play in correcting the misperceptions, arguing they should give more coverage to public support for climate policies and not overrepresent the opposition.
"It's important to remember that 'being fair and balanced' means accurately showing how popular something is, not pretending it's fifty-fifty," said lead author Gregg Sparkman.