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A Reason to Believe: Examining the Factors that Determine Individual Views on Global Warming


  • *Direct correspondence to Christopher P. Borick, Political Science Department, Muhlenberg College, 2400 W. Chew St., Allentown, PA 18104 〈〉. Christopher P. Borick will share all data and coding information with those wishing to replicate the study. We are grateful for thoughtful comments from two anonymous reviewers and our colleagues Melissa Forbes, Thomas Ivacko, Sidney Milkis, and Michael Mintrom. We also express our gratitude for funding provided by the WestWind Foundation, the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, and the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association and the 2009 Annual Meeting of the Western Political Science Association.


Objectives. In this article we examine the causes of both belief and disbelief in global warming among adult Americans.

Methods. We use national- and state-level telephone surveys to collect data on individual-level beliefs regarding climate change and employ ordered logistical regression to measures the relative effect of various factors on those beliefs.

Results. The study finds that U.S. views on climate change are being shaped by a combination of personal observations, meteorological events, and physical changes on the planet. The impact of various factors on one's belief in global warming are significantly determined by partisan affiliation, with Democrats and Republicans responding differently to assorted types of evidence.

Conclusion. Beliefs regarding global warming are being shaped by individual experiences and weather phenomenon and the processing of such factors is substantially influenced by a person's partisan leanings.