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Abstract

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  2. Abstract

Attitude polarization between conservative and progressive politicians over global warming has an important influence upon public acceptance of action on climate change. Political party identification theorists claim that political elites provide cues that guide party supporters on complex political issues. In Australia, as in the USA, the UK and elsewhere, public attitudes on climate change are deeply divided on the basis of party identification and political ideology. Multivariate analyses of Australian candidate and voter survey data show that coalition candidates and their supporters are far less likely than their Labor or Greens counterparts to believe global warming will pose a serious threat to their way of life. Attitudes toward global warming are also more polarized according to party allegiance among candidates than among voters. Controlling for social background and political ideology, Coalition identifiers are less concerned about the dangers of climate change, far less supportive of the carbon tax and less likely to support renewable energy options than Greens or Labor identifiers are, but much more supportive of nuclear power as an alternative energy source.

Footnotes
  • 1

    Susan Solomon, Dahe Qin, Martin Manning, Melinda Marquis, Kristen Averyt, Melinda Tignor, Henry LeRoy Miller and Zhenlin Chen, ed., Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge, 2007).

  • 2

    For example: Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap, “The Politicisation of Climate Change and Polarisation in the American Public's Views of Global Warming, 2001–2010”, The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 52 (2011), pp. 155194; Anthony Leiserowitz, Edward Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf and Nicholas Smith, Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in May 2011 (New Haven, 2011) <http://environment.yale.edu/climate/files/ClimateBeliefsMay2011.pdf>.

  • 3
  • 4

    For example: Lawrence Hamilton, “Education, Politics and Opinions about Climate Change: Evidence for Interaction Effects”, Climatic Change, Vol. 104, 2 (January 2011), pp. 231242;Riley Dunlap and Aaron McCright, “A Widening Gap: Republican and Democratic Views on Climate Change”, Environment, Vol. 50, 5 (2008), pp. 2635; McCright and Dunlap “The Politicisation of Climate Change”; Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap, “Cool Dudes: The Denial Climate Change among Conservative White Males in the United States”, Global Environmental Change, Vol. 21, 4 (October 2011), pp. 11531318.

  • 5

    Wouter Poortinga, Alexa Spence, Lorraine Whitmarsh, Stuart Capstick and Nick Pidgeon, “Uncertain Climate: An Investigation into Public Scepticism about Anthropocentric Climate Change”, Global Environmental Change, Vol. 21, 3 (August 2011), pp. 10151024; Lorraine Whitmarsh, “Skepticism and Uncertainty about Climate Change: Dimensions, Determinants, and Change over Time”, Global Environmental Change, Vol. 21, 2 (May 2011), pp. 690700.

  • 6

    Eurobarometer, “Europeans’ Attitudes towards Climate Change” (Special Eurobarometer 313), European Commission and European Parliament, July 2009, <http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_313_en.pdf>.

  • 7

    Bruce Tranter, “Political Divisions over Climate Change and Environmental Issues in Australia”, Environmental Politics, Vol. 20, 1 (2011), pp. 7896; idem, “Social and Political Influences on Environmentalism in Australia”, Journal of Sociology (September 2012), DOI: 10.11771440783312459102.

  • 8

    For example: Dan Wood and Arnold Vedlitz, “Issue Definition, Information Processing and the Politics of Global Warming”, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 51, 3 (July 2007), pp. 552568;Peter Jacques, Riley Dunlap and Mark Freeman, “The Organisation of Denial: Conservative Think Tanks and Environmental Scepticism”, Environmental Politics, Vol. 17, 3 (2008), pp. 349385; McCright and Dunlap “The Politicisation of Climate Change”; McCright and Dunlap, “Cool Dudes”. Raphael Nawrotzki, “The Politics of Environmental Concern: A Cross-National Analysis”, Organisation and Environment, Vol. 25, 3 (September 2012), pp. 286307, points out that the position of conservatives on environmental issues does vary across countries, from opposition to environmentalism in developed, capitalist countries to greater concern than liberals in less developed countries.

  • 9

    Tranter, “Political Divisions over Climate Change”.

  • 10

    Kelly Fielding, Brian Head, Warren Laffan, Mark Western, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, “Australian Politicians’ Beliefs about Climate Change: Political Partisanship and Political Ideology”, Environmental Politics, Vol. 21, 5 (2012), pp. 712733.

  • 11

    Pascal Sciarini, Nicholas Bornstein and Bruno Lanz, “The determinants of voting choices on environmental issues: a two-level analysis” in Claes Holger Vreese, ed., The Dynamics of Referendum Campaigns. An International Perspective (London, 2007).

  • 12

    Morris Fiorina and Samuel Abrams, “Political Polarization in the American Public”, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 11 (2008), pp. 563588.

  • 13

    Angus Campbell, Phillip Converse, Warren Miller and Donald Stokes, The American Voter (New York, 1960).

  • 14

    Fiorina and Abrams, “Political Polarization”, p.581.

  • 15

    Tranter, “Political Divisions over Climate Change”; idem, “Social and Political Influences”.

  • 16

    Tranter, “Political Divisions over Climate Change”, p.90.

  • 17

    For example: Warren Miller, “The cross-national use of party identification as a stimulus to political inquiry” in Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe and Dennis Farlie, eds, Party Identification and Beyond, (London, 1976), pp.21–31; Campbell, Converse, Miller and Stokes, The American Voter; Larry Bartels, “Partisanship and Voting Behaviour, 1952–1996”, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 44, 1 (2000), pp. 3550; Donald Green, Bradley Palmquist and Eric Schickler, Partisan Hearts and Minds (New Haven, 2002).

  • 18

    Miller, “The cross-national use of party identification”, p.23.

  • 19

    Campbell, Converse, Miller and Stokes, The American Voter, p.133.

  • 20

    Russell Dalton, ed., Citizen Politics: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies (Chatham, 1996); Russell Dalton, Scott Flanagan and Paul Beck, Electoral Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies (Princeton, 1984).

  • 21

    Warren Miller and J. Merrill Shanks, The New American Voter (New York, 1996); Clive Bean, “Parties and elections” in Brian Galligan, Ian McAllister and John Ravenhill, eds, New Developments in Australian Politics (South Melbourne, 1997), pp.102–124.; Bartels, “Partisanship and Voting Behaviour”. 22 Martin Gilens and Naomi Murakawa, “Elite cues and political decision making” in Michael Delli-Carpini, Leonie Huddy and Robert Shapiro, eds, Political Decision-making, Deliberation and Participation (Oxford, 2002), p.21.

  • 22

    Martin Gilens and Naomi Murakawa, “Elite cues and political decision making” in Michael Delli-Carpini, Leonie Huddy and Robert Shapiro, eds, Political Decision-making, Deliberation and Participation (Oxford, 2002), p.21.

  • 23

    Sciarini, Bornstein and Lanz, “The determinants of voting choices”.

  • 24

    John Zaller, “The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion (New York, 1992), p.266.

  • 25

    Wood and Vedlitz, “Issue Definition, Information Processing”, p.564.

  • 26

    Dunlap and McCright, “A Widening Gap”, p.33.

  • 27

    Dan Kahan, Maggie Wittlin, Ellen Peters, Paul Slovic, Lisa Ouellette, Donald Braman and Gregory Mandel, “The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Culture Conflict, Rationality Conflict, and Climate Change” Cultural Cognition Project Working Paper No. 89 <http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1871503>.

  • 28

    Ibid., p.15.

  • 29

    Ibid., p.16.

  • 30

    Ibid.

  • 31

    Ibid.

  • 32

    Tranter, “Social and Political Influences”.

  • 33

    Fielding, Head, Laffan, Western, Hoegh-Guldberg, “Australian Politicians’ Beliefs about Climate Change”, p.717.

  • 34

    Adam Corner, Lorraine Whitmarsh and Dimitrios Xenias, “Uncertainty, Scepticism and Attitudes toward Climate Change: Biased Assimilation and Attitude Polarisation”, Climatic Change, Vol. 114 (2012), p. 463.

  • 35

    Ibid., p.476.

  • 36

    For example: Juliet Pietsch and Ian McAllister, “‘A Diabolical Challenge’: Public Opinion and Climate Change Policy in Australia”, Environmental Politics, Vol. 19, 2 (March 2010), pp. 217236;Bruce Tranter, “Environmentalism in Australia: Elites and the Public”, Journal of Sociology, Vol. 35, 3 (1999), pp. 331350. Bruce Tranter, “Environmentalism and Education in Australia”, Environmental Politics, Vol. 6, 2 (1997), pp. 123143; Tranter, “Social and Political Influences”.

  • 37

    Ronald Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernisation: Cultural, Economic, and Political Change in 43 Societies (Princeton, 1997).

  • 38

    Ibid.

  • 39

    Tranter, “Social and Political Influences”; Bruce Tranter, “Environmental Activists and Non-active Environmentalists in Australia”, Environmental Politics, Vol. 19, 3 (2010), pp. 413429; Bruce Tranter and Mark Western, “Postmaterial Values and Age: the Case of Australia”, Australian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 38, 2 (2003), pp. 239257; Stephen Crook and Jan Pakulski, “Shades of Green: Public Opinion on Environmental Issues in Australia”, Australian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 30 (1995), pp. 3955; Elim Papadakis, Politics and the Environment: The Australian Experience (St Leonards, 1993); Bruce Tranter and Mark Western, “The Influence of Green Parties on Postmaterialist Values”, British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 60, 1 (2009), pp. 145167.

  • 40

    Chris Rootes, “A new class? The higher educated and the new politics” in Louis Maheu, ed., Social Movements and Social Classes: The Future of Collective Action (London, 1995), p.617.

  • 41

    Lynette Zelezny, Poh-Pheng Chua and Christina Aldrich, “New Ways of Thinking about Environmentalism: Elaborating on Gender Differences in Environmentalism”, Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 56, 3 (2000), pp. 444445.

  • 42

    Aaron McCright, “The Effects of Gender on Climate Change Knowledge and Concern in the American Public”, Population and Environment, Vol. 32 (2010), pp. 6687.

  • 43

    Bruce Tranter, “The Social Bases of Environmentalism in Australia”, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, Vol. 32, 2 (August 1996), pp. 6184.

  • 44

    Rootes, “A new class?”, p.227.

  • 45

    Tranter, “Social and Political Influences”.

  • 46

    Ibid.; Tranter and Western, “Postmaterial Values and Age”; Narelle Miragliotta, “One Party, Two Traditions: Radicalism and Pragmatism in the Australian Greens”, Australian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 41, 4 (2006), pp. 58596.

  • 47

    Fielding, Head, Laffan, Western, Hoegh-Guldberg, “Australian Politicians’ Beliefs about Climate Change”; Tranter, “Social and Political Influences”; Tranter, “Political Divisions over Climate Change”.

  • 48

    Ian McAllister, Clive Bean, Rachel Gibson and Juliet Pietsch, Australian Election Study 2010 (Canberra, 2011).

  • 49

    Ann Evans, “Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2011”, (Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, Australian National University, 2012).

  • 50

    Dependent variables analysed in Table 4 using binary logistic regression were constructed from the following AuSSA questions: “Here is a list of some different environmental problems. Which problem, if any, do you think is the most important for Australia as a whole?: (‘Climate change’=1; other options =0); ‘To which of the following should Australia give priority in order to meet its future energy needs?’ (Solar, wind and water =1; other issues =0); ‘Do you think Australia should have a Carbon tax?’ (yes = 1; no = 0). The following dependent variables were analysed with ordered logistic regression: ‘A rise in the world's temperature caused by climate change is…?’ and ‘Nuclear power stations are…’ (both 5 point scales, 1 = extremely dangerous to 5 = not dangerous at all)…for the environment?”

  • 51

    In Table 1 the variable was rescored to range from 0 to 100, where very serious threat =100, fairly serious =66, not very =33, not at all =0.

  • 52

    Some caution is advised when interpreting the results for the Australian Greens in the regression models given the relatively small sub-samples in Tables 3 and 4.

  • 53

    Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernisation.

  • 54

    These composite scales are constructed from multiple items designed to measure Labor and Coalition leader characteristics in the 2010 AES. The questions are prefaced by “Here is a list of words and phrases people use to describe party leaders. Thinking first about [leader name], in your opinion how well does each of these describe him/her — extremely well, quite well, not too well or not well at all?” The list of leader characteristics includes: the leader is […] competent, compassionate, sensible, a strong leader, honest, knowledgeable, inspiring, trustworthy. Both leader scales are highly reliable, each with a Cronbach's Alpha of .93.

  • 55

    The knowledge scale is a composite measure comprised by adding the correct responses to six “quiz” true or false questions that were included in the 2010 AES. For each of the following statements, please say whether it is true or false. If you don't know the answer, just circle “don't know” and try the next one. The questions were “Australia became federation in 1901?”; “There are 75 members of the House of Representatives?”; “The Constitution can only be changed by the High Court?”; “Elections to the Senate are based on proportional representation”; “No-one may stand for Federal parliament unless they pay a deposit”; “The longest time between Federal elections for the House of Representatives is four years?”

  • 56

    Hamilton, “Education, Politics and Opinions”; McCright and Dunlap, “The Politicisation of Climate Change”.

  • 57

    Preliminary testing suggested that Western Australian respondents tended to be more concerned about global warming than those living in other states so a dummy variable in regression analyses.

  • 58

    Green, Palmquist and Schickler, Partisan Hearts and Minds, p.109.

  • 59

    Corner, Whitmarsh and Xenias, “Uncertainty, Scepticism and Attitudes”; Dan Kahan, Maggie Wittlin, Ellen Peters, Paul Slovic, Lisa Ouellette, Donald Braman, and Gregory Mandel, “The Tragedy of the Risk-Perception Commons: Culture Conflict, Rationality Conflict, and Climate Change”, (Cultural Cognition Project Working Paper No. 89, 2011), <http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1871503> accessed 21 November 2012; Hamilton, “Education, Politics and Opinions”; McCright and Dunlap, “The Politicisation of Climate Change”.

  • 60

    Corner, Whitmarsh and Xenias, “Uncertainty, Scepticism and Attitudes”, p.463.

  • 61

    The Guardian, 30 March 2012.

  • 62

    Fielding, Head, Laffan, Western, Hoegh-Guldberg, “Australian Politicians’ Beliefs about Climate Change”, p.728.

  • 63

    Ibid.

  • 64

    Fiorina and Abrams, “Political Polarization”.

  • 65

    McCright and Dunlap, “Cool Dudes”.

  • 66

    Kahan, “Cultural Cognition as a Conception”, p.40.

  • 67

    Dan Kahan, “Cultural Cognition as a Conception of the Cultural Theory of Risk” in Sabrine Roeser, Rafaela Hillerbrand, Per Sandin, and Martin Peterson, eds, Handbook of Risk Theory: Epistemology, Decision Theory, Ethics and Social Implications of Risk (London, 2012).

  • 68

    Ibid.

  • 69

    Tranter, “Social and Political Influences”.

  • 70

    This is consistent with Tranter, “Social and Political Influences”, on analyses of willingness to pay to prevent global warming.

  • 71

    U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Nuclear Explained: Use of nuclear power”, <http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=nuclear_use> (accessed 9 October 2012).

  • 72

    World Nuclear Association, “Plans for new reactors worldwide” <http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf17.html> (accessed 9 October 2012).

  • 73

    The Guardian, 19 September 2012.

  • 74

    McCright and Dunlap, “Cool Dudes”.

  • 75

    Hamilton, “Education, Politics and Opinions”.

  • 76

    McCright, “The Effects of Gender”.

  • 77

    Lyn McGaurr and Libby Lester, “Complementary problems, competing risks: climate change, nuclear energy and the Australian” in Tammy Boyce and Justin Lewis, eds, Climate Change and the Media (New York, 2009), p.176.