Know thy enemy
McCright actually agrees that the study reveals more about politics than any other personal attributes. "It's not a biological or gender thing," he said. "It's a political thing." Liberal white males are more accepting of government regulations and challenges to the status quo because it fits in their political ideology, he said.
"When you start talking about climate change and the need for major changes, carbon taxes and lifestyle changes, [conservatives] see this as a threat to capitalism and future prosperity," said McCright. "So conservatives tend to be very negative towards climate change."
So what does McCright and Dunlap's research mean for climate regulation? Climate change denial has increased across all sectors of the American general public over the last decade, write the authors. And as they conclude in another recent study on the politicization of climate change published earlier this year in the journal Sociology Quarterly, "we expect that the political divide within the general public may further inhibit the creation of effective climate policy."
Perhaps, like the trend of denial among conservative white males, there is nothing too surprising about that conclusion. But for Maibach of George Mason University, McCright and Dunlap's findings do bring something new to the bargaining table.
"If you are advocating for climate legislation is helps to understand your opponents. Or if you have opponents, it's good to understand them to effectively engage with them," he said. "One [approach] is more combative, the other is more about conflict resolution. In either case it helps to know who you're dealing with."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500