In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Public Opinion toward the Environment and Climate Change in the United States

  • Introduction
  • Economic Explanations for Environmental Attitudes
  • Climate Change Attitudes
  • Persuasion
  • Consequences of Environmental Attitudes
  • Resources for Public Opinion Data
  • Journals

Political Science Public Opinion toward the Environment and Climate Change in the United States
Eric A. Coleman, James Stewart
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0351


In the United States, public opinion on environmental issues is characterized by high levels of political polarization. This was not always the case. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed in 1970, and most environmental legislation like the Clean Water Act (1972) and the Clean Air Act (1963) was established during the “environmental decade” in the Nixon administration. Since that time, however, environmental issues have become increasingly polarized. Both the science of and policy solutions to global climate change have been especially polarized. A huge interdisciplinary body of work in public opinion, political communication, political psychology, environmental and social psychology, science communication, sociology, anthropology, and behavioral economics has all sought to understand people’s attitudes toward environmental issues, how they prioritize different issues, support toward public and private initiatives to address environmental problems, how to change such attitudes, and the impact of environmental attitudes on public and private behavior. This article reviews some of the main trends in this literature, theoretical foundations of these phenomena, and empirical evidence. It then briefly reviewing the evidence of the impact of such attitudes on public and private behavior, and concludes with a list of resources and journals.

Explaining Individual Differences in Environmental Attitudes: Political Ideology and Media Coverage

Scholars have identified several phenomena that explain whether and to what extent people have pro-environmental attitudes. This section discusses the effects of Political Ideology and Media Coverage.

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