UNH Research Shows Political Leanings Can Affect Perceptions of Climate Change

Nov 15, 2016

The Merrimack River near peak flows

New research from the University of New Hampshire suggests a person’s political leanings can influence how they perceive some of the impacts of climate change.

In a recent study, researchers at UNH started with the basic, factual premise that there has been an increase in flooding in New Hampshire over the last ten years.

But according to the survey conducted of more than 2,000 New Hampshire residents, your political leanings play a big role in determining whether you agree with that fact.

Among self-identified conservative respondents, 22 percent agreed with the statement that flooding was on the rise, compared to 48 percent of liberal respondents.

Larry Hamilton is a professor of sociology at UNH and is lead author of the study.

“I think what’s happening there is that people read their political agenda into that. They think, ‘this is a global warming question disguised as something else, so I’m going to answer it according to my beliefs about global warming.'”

Hamilton says the finding points to a larger challenge for scientists -- how to accurately convey their findings to the public.