Objective: To explore the effects of long-term climate trends and short-term weather fluctuations, evaluations of scientists and science, political predispositions, religious affiliation, the information environment, and demographic attributes on individuals’ views about whether global warming exists and, if so, whether it is a result of natural cycles or human activity.

Methods: We use data from the 2009 Pew General Public Science Survey, along with data on long- and short-term patterns of temperature and precipitation in individuals’ home communities.

Results: We find that long-term trends in summer temperatures influence perceptions of global warming. Individuals who reside in communities with long-term warming of summer temperatures that are coupled with long-term cooling of spring temperatures are significantly more likely to perceive that global warming exists and is due to human activity. We also find that Americans' attitudes toward scientists and science, political dispositions, evangelical religious affiliation, education, and some demographic attributes all have discernible effects on their perceptions of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming.

Conclusion: Individuals’ attitudes toward global warming are influenced by long-term temperature trends in their home communities, as well as a variety of attitudinal and demographic attributes.



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Social Science Quarterly



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© 2016 by the Southwestern Social Science Association


This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Shao, W., J.C. Garand, B.D. Keim & L.C. Hamilton. 2016. “Science, scientists, and local weather: Understanding mass perceptions of global warming.” Social Science Quarterly, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

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