Public knowledge and concern about polar-region warming



In 2006 and 2010, before and after the International Polar Year, the General Social Survey asked cross-sections of the US public for their knowledge and opinions about polar regions. The opinion items sought respondents' levels of concern about global warming in polar regions, and whether they favored opening Antarctica for development or reserving it for science. Polar knowledge scores show significant improvement from 2006 to 2010, while general science literacy scores and opinions remain largely unchanged. Regression of concern and Antarctic items on background characteristics, ideology, education and the two knowledge tests finds that ideology and knowledge have the most consistent effects. Conservative ideology negatively predicts all six concern items and supports for reserving the Antarctic. Polar knowledge exhibits a positive effect on most of the concern items and on support for reserving the Antarctic. General science knowledge has mainly positive effects on concern and Antarctic opinions as well, but its effects are moderated by ideology. These findings support two contrasting but not mutually exclusive views about the role of information: that more science information generally leads to greater concern about environmental changes, or greater support for science; but also that some informed but strongly ideological respondents acquire information selectively in ways that reinforce their existing beliefs.



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Polar Geography


Taylor & Francis

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© 2012 Taylor& Francis.