A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan, show that more Americans believe in “climate change” than in “global warming.”
The study, which will see its results published in an upcoming issure of the journal Public Opinion Quarterly, surveyed 2,267 adult Americans asking them a simple question regarding the issue of climate change/global warming.
Fifty percent of those surveyed were given the term “global warming” while the other fifty percent were given the term “climate change.”
“You may have heard about the idea that the world’s temperature may have been going up [changing] over the past 100 years,” asked the researchers, “a phenomenon sometimes called ‘global warming’ [‘climate change’]. What is your personal opinion regarding whether or not this has been happening?”
The results tell an interesting story.
74 percent of respondents thought that it was a concerning issue when it was referred to as climate change, while only 68 thought it a concern when it was referred to as global warming.
These different levels of belief may stem from the different associations carried by the two terms, said Jonathon Schuldt, the lead author of the article about the study and a doctoral candidate in the U-M Department of Psychology.
“While global warming focuses attention on temperature increases, climate change focuses attention on more general changes,” he said. “Thus, an unusually cold day may increase doubts about global warming more so than about climate change. Given these different associations and the partisan nature of this issue, climate change believers and skeptics might be expected to vary in their use of these terms.”
The study also looked at whether politics was in play in the results. The researchers analysed the use of the two term on political think tank websites, and found that liberals and conservatives used different terms to refer to the same thing. Conservative think tanks referred to the phenomenon as global warming, while the liberals called it climate change.
Additionally, the researchers analysed responses to the survey by political orientation. 60 percent of Republicans thought that climate change was real, while only 44 percent felt that global warming was a present reality.
On the other side of the coin, 86 percent of Democrats thought climate change was a serious problem no matter what the researchers termed it.
“It might be a ceiling effect, given their high level of belief,” Konrath said. “Or it could be that Democrats’ beliefs about global climate change might be more crystallized, and as a result, more protected from subtle manipulations.”
However, Americans may not be as polarized on the issue as had been previously thought.
“The extent of the partisan divide on this issue depends heavily on question wording,” said Schwarz, who is also affiliated with the U-M Ross Business School and the Institute of Social Research (ISR). “When the issue is framed as global warming, the partisan divide is nearly 42 percentage points. But when the frame is climate change, the partisan divide drops to about 26 percentage points.”