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The evidence for motivated reasoning in climate change preference formation

Nature Climate Changevolume 9pages111119 (2019) | Download Citation

Abstract

Despite a scientific consensus, citizens are divided when it comes to climate change — often along political lines. Democrats or liberals tend to believe that human activity is a primary cause of climate change, whereas Republicans or conservatives are much less likely to hold this belief. A prominent explanation for this divide is that it stems from directional motivated reasoning: individuals reject new information that contradicts their standing beliefs. In this Review, we suggest that the empirical evidence is not so clear, and is equally consistent with a theory in which citizens strive to form accurate beliefs but vary in what they consider to be credible evidence. This suggests a new research agenda on climate change preference formation, and has implications for effective communication.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank J. Bullock and S. Hill for comments. They also thank A.S. D’Urso, S.R. Gubitz, M. Nelsen, K. Ramanathan and R. Xu for research assistance.

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  1. Department of Political Science, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA

    • James N. Druckman
    •  & Mary C. McGrath

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Authors contributed equally to the conceptualization and writing of the paper.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0360-1