I I Liberal Q Conservative
Source: Based on Table 20 in Edward Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf and Anthony Leiserowitz, Global Warmings 'Six Americas' 2009
Note: 'Moderates' are not shown
protection over economic growth even if it costs jobs (89 per cent take this view) where the Dismissive support economic growth even if it leads to environmental problems (90 per cent).40 The views of each of the other four groups lie close to a straight line diagonally connecting these two positions.
The Alarmed are much more likely to watch the news on the mainstream networks (63 per cent) while the Dismissive are much more likely to watch Fox News (62 per cent) and listen to right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh (47 per cent).41 (While the proliferation of competing sources of information is usually regarded as good for democracy, the erosion of the domination of the major television networks and newspapers by the rise of cable television, talk radio and the internet has meant that people can more easily go to news sources that confirm their own biases and avoid information that challenges them.)
The data from the Six Americas study reinforce the suspicion that, for many Americans, the position one takes on global warming depends on one's prior political values, although this is truer on the right. On most issues that divide left and right— such as the proper role of government, the extent of welfare, national sovereignty, rights versus responsibilities—there are legitimate differences of values that can be mobilised to support either position, although 'facts' are often selected to support each position. In the case of global warming facts concerning its existence, severity and likely impacts are not questions of values but of scientific evidence. The facts are filtered through an opaque ideological lens.
The strong association between political ideology and beliefs about global warming is a peculiarly American phenomenon, although it spills over into Australia where scepticism is also strong and is promoted by a number of conservative think tanks with links to counterparts in the United States.42 In Europe the alignment of conservatism and climate scepticism is much weaker. In Britain the Conservative Party under David Cameron is highly critical of the Labour Government for not going far enough, and some 58 per cent of Tory voters say he takes a 'welcome and courageous stand on the environment'.43 Germany's Angela Merkel takes at least as strong a position as her Social Democratic predecessor. A similar situation prevails in France, but not in Italy where Prime Minister Berlusconi's politics are well to the right of his northerly conservative counterparts and include climate scepticism. In Canada the conservative government of British Columbia in 2008 introduced a small carbon tax, only to be attacked by the left-leaning New Democratic Party that sought government with an 'axe the tax' campaign aimed at 'protecting
The political colouring of the global warming debate in the United States helps explain why there is a comparatively lower level of concern in that country, despite high levels of awareness of the issue. (Although it should be noted that a 2003 survey found that 47 per cent of Americans believe, erroneously, that global warming is caused primarily by damage to the ozone layer.45) The Six Americas study found that 54 per cent of Americans believe that the world was created literally in six days 'as the Bible says',46 reflecting a widespread willingness to disregard scientific evidence when it conflicts with deeper values. When asked in 2006 how serious a problem they consider global warming to be, fewer than 50 per cent of Americans rated it 'very serious'.47 In part due to their more secular character western Europeans are less resistant to the scientific evidence, with more than 65 per cent of citizens regarding warming as 'very serious'.48 A better measure than the level of concern about climate change is the extent to which people worry about it, because worry is an active emotional state.49 When citizens of fifteen nations were asked in 2006 how much they personally worry about global warming those in the
United States ranked last, with only 18 per cent saying they worry 'a great deal' (with another 35 per cent saying they worry a fair amount).50 Japanese people are the most anxious, with nearly two thirds worrying a great deal. Europeans range from high levels of worry in Spain and France (with around half worrying a great deal) to the phlegmatic British (25 per cent), although this may reflect not so much different appreciations of the evidence as differences in national neuroticism (French people are among the most neurotic and Britons the least).51
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