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Validating a Comprehensive Model of Environmental Concern Cross-Nationally: A U.S.-Canadian Comparison


  • *Direct correspondence to Chenyang Xiao, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Albright College, Reading, PA 19612 〈〉. The authors will share all data and coding information with anyone wishing to replicate the study. This is a revision of a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Philadelphia, August 2005.


Objective. The dimensionality of “environmental concern” remains ambiguous despite decades of research on environmental attitudes and beliefs. We attempt to provide insight into this issue by using the belief systems perspective and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to test a comprehensive conceptualization of environmental concern.

Methods. The study employs a comparative design by using national probability samples of citizens from Canada and the United States, and a comprehensive conceptualization model to maximize content validity. We utilize CFA and structural equation modeling techniques to avoid well-known measurement error problems in survey research.

Results. Eight key facets of environmental concern have moderate to high factor loadings on one underlying construct, and all but perception of community problems and national problems have high loadings. Further analyses provide construct validation for our measurement model.

Conclusion. Our results suggest that even among the general public, attitudes toward environmental issues are relatively well organized into a broad and coherent sense of “concern for the environment.” The similarity in the U.S. and Canadian results increases our faith in the validity of our comprehensive conceptualization of environmental concern, as well as the utility of the belief systems perspective and CFA modeling for future studies of environmental attitudes and beliefs.