Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Beliefs about Climate Beliefs: The Importance of Second-Order Opinions for Climate Politics

  • Matto Mildenberger and Dustin Tingley
Abstract

When political action entails individual costs but group-contingent benefits, political participation may depend on an individual’s perceptions of others’ beliefs; yet detailed empirical attention to these second-order beliefs – beliefs about the beliefs of others – remains rare. We offer the first comprehensive examination of the distribution and content of second-order climate beliefs in the United States and China, drawing from six new opinion surveys of mass publics, political elites and intellectual elites. We demonstrate that all classes of political actors have second-order beliefs characterized by egocentric bias and global underestimation of pro-climate positions. We then demonstrate experimentally that individual support for pro-climate policies increases after respondents update their second-order beliefs. We conclude that scholars should focus more closely on second-order beliefs as a key factor shaping climate policy inaction and that scholars can use the climate case to extend their understanding of second-order beliefs more broadly.

Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All
*

Thanks to Sander van der Linden, Erin Hennes, Joshua Kertzer, Devin Judge-Lord, John Patty, Betsy Sinclair, Mark Buntaine, Michael Stone, Michael Masterson, Jonathan Renshon, Endre Tvinnereim and audience members at Washington University, the University of California Santa Barbara, the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin and Harvard University for comments on earlier drafts of this article. We thank the TRIPS team at William and Mary for access to their data. We thank Leah Stokes and Alexander Hertel Fernandez for access to and collaboration in collecting data on legislative staffer beliefs. Research supported by Harvard University Center for the Environment and the Dirksen Congressional Research Center. Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at: https://dx.doi.org/10.7910/DVN/C1XYRJ. and online appendices are available at https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123417000321

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Ahler, Douglas J. 2014. Self-Fulfilling Misperceptions of Public Polarization. Journal of Politics 76 (3):607620.
Aklin, Michaël, and Urpelainen, Johannes. 2013a. Debating Clean Energy: Frames, Counter Frames, and Audiences. Global Environmental Change 23 (5):12251232.
Aklin, Michaël, and Urpelainen, Johannes. 2013b. Political Competition, Path Dependence, and the Strategy of Sustainable Energy Transitions. American Journal of Political Science 57 (3):643658.
Aldrich, John H., Sullivan, John L., and Borgida, Eugene. 1989. Foreign Affairs and Issue Voting: Do Presidential Candidates ‘Waltz Before a Blind Audience’. American Political Science Review 83 (1):123141.
Barrett, Scott. 2006. Climate Treaties and ‘Breakthrough’ Technologies. American Economic Review 96 (2):2225.
Bechtel, Michael M., and Scheve, Kenneth F.. 2013. Mass Support for Global Climate Agreements Depends on Institutional Design. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110 (34):1376313768.
Berinsky, Adam J., Huber, Gregory A., and Lenz, Gabriel S.. 2012. Evaluating Online Labor Markets for Experimental Research: Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk. Political Analysis 20 (3):351368.
Borick, Christopher P., and Rabe, Barry G.. 2010. A Reason to Believe: Examining the Factors that Determine Individual Views on Global Warming. Social Science Quarterly 91 (3):777800.
Boykoff, Maxwell T. 2011. Who Speaks for the Climate?: Making Sense of Media Reporting on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Boykoff, Maxwell T., and Boykoff, Jules M.. 2004. Balance as Bias: Global Warming and the US Prestige Press. Global Environmental Change 14 (2):125136.
Broockman, D., and Ryan, T. 2016. Preaching to the Choir: Americans Prefer Communicating to Copartisan Elected Officials. American Journal of Political Science 60 (4):10931107.
Brulle, Robert J. 2014. Institutionalizing Delay: Foundation Funding and the Creation of US Climate Change Counter-Movement Organizations. Climatic Change 122 (4):681694.
Brulle, Robert J., Carmichael, Jason, and Jenkins, J. Craig. 2012. Shifting Public Opinion on Climate Change: An Empirical Assessment of Factors Influencing Concern over Climate Change in the US, 2002–2010. Climatic Change 114 (2):169188.
Buhrmester, Michael, Kwang, Tracy, and Gosling, Samuel D.. 2011. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: A New Source of Inexpensive, Yet High-Quality, Data? Perspectives on Psychological Science 6 (1):35.
Burgmann, Verity, and Baer, Hans. 2012. Climate Politics and the Climate Movement in Australia. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
Chambers, John R., and De Dreu, Carsten K. W.. 2014. Egocentrism Drives Misunderstanding in Conflict and Negotiation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 51:1526.
Chong, Dennis. 1991. Collective Action and the Civil Rights Movement. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Druckman, James N. 2013. Public Opinion: Stunted Policy Support. Nature Climate Change 3 (7):617.
Dryzek, John S. 2013. The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourses. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dunlap, Riley E., and McCright, Araon M.. 2008. A Widening Gap: Republican and Democratic Views on Climate Change. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 50 (5):2635.
Egan, Patrick J., and Mullin, Megan. 2012. Turning Personal Experience into Political Attitudes: The Effect of Local Weather on Americans? Perceptions about Global Warming. Journal of Politics 74 (3):796809.
Epley, Nicholas, and Gilovich, Thomas. 2006. The Anchoring-and-Adjustment Heuristic: Why the Adjustments are Insufficient. Psychological Science 17 (4):311318.
Epley, Nicholas, Keysar, Boaz, Van Boven, Leaf, and Gilovich, Thomas. 2004. Perspective Taking as Egocentric Anchoring and Adjustment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 87 (3):327.
Erikson, Robert S., Wright, Gerald C., and McIver, John P.. 1993. Statehouse Democracy: Public Opinion and Policy in the American States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Feldman, Lauren, Maibach, Edward W., Roser-Renouf, Connie, and Leiserowitz, Anthony. 2012. Climate on Cable: The Nature and Impact of Global Warming Coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. International Journal of Press/Politics 17 (1):331.
Feygina, Irina, Jost, John T., and Goldsmith, Rachel E.. 2010. System Justification, the Denial of Global Warming, and the Possibility of System-Sanctioned Change. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 36 (3):326338.
Fielding, Kelly S., Head, Brian W., Laffan, Warren, Western, Mark, and Hoegh-Guldberg, Ove. 2012. Australian Politicians’ Beliefs about Climate Change: Political Partisanship and Political Ideology. Environmental Politics 21 (5):712733.
Fischbacher, Urs, Gächter, Simon, and Fehr, Ernst. 2001. Are People Conditionally Cooperative? Evidence from a Public Goods Experiment. Economics Letters 71 (3):397404.
Frey, Bruno S., and Meier, Stephan. 2004. Social Comparisons and Pro-Social Behavior: Testing ‘Conditional Cooperation’ in a Field Experiment. American Economic Review 94 (5):17171722.
Gallup. 2009. Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public, Media. Available from http://www.people-press.org/2009/07/09/public-praises-science-scientists-fault-public- media/, accessed 12 November 2015.
Geiger, Nathaniel, and Swim, Janet K.. 2016. Climate of Silence: Pluralistic Ignorance as a Barrier to Climate Change Discussion. Journal of Environmental Psychology 47:7990.
Gordon, Robert M. 1992. The Simulation Theory: Objections and Misconceptions. Mind and Language 7 (1–2):1134.
Hamilton, Clive. 2007. Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change. Melbourne: Black.
Hamilton, Lawrence C., and Stampone, Mary D.. 2013. Blowin’ in the Wind: Short-Term Weather and Belief in Anthropogenic Climate Change. Weather, Climate, and Society 5 (2):112119.
Hansen, James, Sato, Makiko, and Ruedy, Reto. 2012. Perception of Climate Change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (37):E2415E2423.
Healy, Andrew, and Lenz, Gabriel S.. 2014. Substituting the End for the Whole: Why Voters Respond Primarily to the Election-Year Economy. American Journal of Political Science 58 (1):3147.
Herring, Stephanie C., Hoerling, Martin P., Peterson, Thomas C., and Stott, Peter A.. 2014. Explaining Extreme Events of 2013 from a Climate Perspective. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 95 (9):S1104.
Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander, Mildenberger, Matto, and Stokes, Leah. 2017. Legislative Staff and Representation in Congress. Draft manuscript.
Hicks, Raymond, and Tingley, Dustin. 2011. Causal Mediation Analysis. Stata Journal 11:609615.
Howe, Peter D., and Leiserowitz, Anthony. 2013. Who Remembers a Hot Summer or a Cold Winter? The Asymmetric Effect of Beliefs about Global Warming on Perceptions of Local Climate Conditions in the US. Global Environmental Change 23 (6):14881500.
Howe, Peter D., Mildenberger, Matto, Marlon, Jennifer R., and Leiserowitz, Anthony. 2015. Geographic Variation in Opinions on Climate Change at State and Local Scales in the USA. Nature Climate Change 5 (6):596603.
Huff, Connor, and Tingley, Dustin. 2015. “Who are These People?” Evaluating the Demographic Characteristics and Political Preferences of MTurk Survey Respondents. Research and Politics 2 (3):112.
Hughes, Llewelyn, and Urpelainen, Johannes. 2015. Interests, Institutions, and Climate Policy: Explaining the Choice of Policy Instruments for the Energy Sector. Environmental Science and Policy 54:5263.
Imai, Kosuke, Keele, Luke, Tingley, Dustin, and Yamamoto, Teppei. 2011. Unpacking the Black Box: Learning about Causal Mechanisms from Experimental and Observational Studies. American Political Science Review 105:765789.
IPCC. 2014. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Geneva: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Iyengar, Shanto, and Westwood, Sean J.. 2014. Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization. American Journal of Political Science 59 (3):690707.
Javeline, Debra. 2014. The Most Important Topic Political Scientists are Not Studying: Adapting to Climate Change. Perspectives on Politics 12 (2):420434.
Kahan, Dan M. 2015. Climate Science Communication and the Measurement Problem. Advances in Political Psychology 36:143.
Kahn, Matthew E., and Kotchen, Matthew J.. 2011. Business Cycle Effects on Concern about Climate Change: The Chilling Effect of Recession. Climate Change Economics 2 (3):257273.
Kellstedt, Paul M., Zahran, Sammy, and Vedlitz, Arnold. 2008. Personal Efficacy, the Information Environment, and Attitudes Toward Global Warming and Climate Change in the United States. Risk Analysis 28 (1):113126.
Keltner, Dacher, and Robinson, Robert J.. 1993. Imagined Ideological Differences in Conflict Escalation and Resolution. International Journal of Conflict Management 4 (3):249262.
Keltner, Dacher, and Robinson, Robert J.. 1997. Defending the Status Quo: Power and Bias in Social Conflict. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 23 (10):10661077.
Keohane, Robert O. 2015. The Global Politics of Climate Change: Challenge for Political Science. PS: Political Science and Politics 48 (1):1926.
Keohane, Robert O., and Victor, David G.. 2011. The Regime Complex for Climate Change. Perspectives on Politics 9 (1):723.
Keohane, Robert O., and Victor, David G.. 2016. Cooperation and Discord in Global Climate Policy. Nature Climate Change 6 (6):570575.
Kertzer, Joshua D., and Brutger, Ryan. 2015. Decomposing Audience Costs: Bringing the Audience Back into Audience Cost Theory. American Journal of Political Science.
Kim, So Young, and Wolinsky-Nahmias, Yael. 2014. Cross-National Public Opinion on Climate Change: The Effects of Affluence and Vulnerability. Global Environmental Politics 14 (1):79106.
Kvaløy, Berit, Finseraas, Henning, and Listhaug, Ola. 2012. The Publics’ Concern for Global Warming: A Cross-National Study of 47 Countries. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1):1122.
Lax, Jeffrey R., and Phillips, Justin H.. 2012. The Democratic Deficit in the States. American Journal of Political Science 56 (1):148166.
Layzer, Judith. 2007. Deep Freeze: How Business has Shaped the Global Warming Debate in Congress. Pp. 93125 in Business and Environmental Policy: Corporate Interests in the American Political System, edited by Michael Kraft and Sheldon Kamieniecki. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Layzer, Judith. 2012. Open for Business: Conservatives’ Opposition to Environmental Regulation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Leeper, Thomas J. 2015. MTurkR: Access to Amazon Mechanical Turk Requester API via R. R package version 0 6 (5.1).
Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., Feinberg, G., and Howe, P.. 2013. Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in April 2013. Technical report. New Haven, CT: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, Yale University and George Mason University.
Levendusky, Matthew, and Malhotra, Neil. 2016. Does Media Coverage of Partisan Polarization Affect Political Attitudes? Political Communication 33 (2):283301.
Levendusky, Matthew S., and Malhotra, Neil. 2016. (Mis) perceptions of Partisan Polarization in the American Public. Public Opinion Quarterly 80 (S1):378391.
Leviston, Zoe, Walker, Iain, and Morwinski, S.. 2013. Your Opinion on Climate Change Might Not Be as Common as You Think. Nature Climate Change 3 (4):334337.
Levitan, Lindsey C., and Verhulst, Brad. 2016. Conformity in Groups: The Effects of Others? Views on Expressed Attitudes and Attitude Change. Political Behavior 38 (2):277315.
Lillard, Angeline. 1998. Ethnopsychologies: Cultural Variations in Theories of Mind. Psychological Bulletin 123 (1):3.
Linden, Sander L. van der, Leiserowitz, Anthony A., Feinberg, Geoffrey D., and Maibach, Edward W.. 2014. How to Communicate the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change: Plain Facts, Pie Charts or Metaphors? Climatic Change 126 (1–2):255262.
Malhotra, Neil, and Margalit, Yotam. 2010. Short-Term Communication Effects or Longstanding Dispositions? The Public’s Response to the Financial Crisis of 2008. Journal of Politics 72 (3):852867.
Marks, Gary, and Miller, Norman. 1987. Ten Years of Research on the False-Consensus Effect: An Empirical and Theoretical Review. Psychological Bulletin 102 (1):72.
Mildenberger, Matto. 2017. “Replication Data for Beliefs about Climate Beliefs: The Importance of Second-Order Opinions for Climate Politics”, doi: 10.7910/DVN/C1XYRJ, Harvard Dataverse, V1, UNF:6:jgMQt9CBLrFQs+JyO0D+SA==.
Mildenberger, Matto. 2015. Fiddling While the World Burns: The Logic of Double Representation in Comparative Climate Policymaking. PhD dissertation, Yale University.
Mildenberger, Matto, Howe, Peter, Lachapelle, Erick, Stokes, Leah, Marlon, Jennifer, and Gravelle, Timothy. 2016. The Distribution of Climate Change Public Opinion in Canada. PLoS One 11 (8):e0159774.
Milkoreit, Manjana. 2013. Mindmade Politics: The Role of Cognition in Global Climate Change Governance. Dissertation presented to the University of Waterloo in fulfillment of the thesis requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Global Governance.
Miller, Dale T., and McFarland, Cathy. 1987. Pluralistic Ignorance: When Similarity is Interpreted as Dissimilarity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 53 (2):298.
Milner, Helen V., and Tingley, Dustin. 2015. Sailing the Water’s Edge: The Domestic Politics of American Foreign Policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Mimno, David, and Lee, Moontae. 2014. Low-Dimensional Embeddings for Interpretable Anchor Based Topic Inference. Pp. 1319–28 in Proceedings of the 2014 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP). Doha, Qatar: Association for Computational Linguistics, October. Available from http://www.aclweb.org/anthology/D14-1138.
Morris, Stephen, and Shin, Hyun Song. 2001. Global Games: Theory and Applications. Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics at Yale University, Discussion Paper No. 1275R.
Mutz, Diana C. 1998. Impersonal Influence: How Perceptions of Mass Collectives Affect Political Attitudes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nickerson, Raymond S. 1999. How We Know and Sometimes Misjudge What Others Know: Imputing One’s Own Knowledge to Others. Psychological Bulletin 125 (6):737.
Noelle-Neumann, Elisabeth. 1974. The Spiral of Silence a Theory of Public Opinion. Journal of Communication 24 (2):4351.
Noelle-Neumann, Elisabeth. 1993. The Spiral of Silence: Public Opinion – Our Social Skin.
Norgaard, Kari Marie. 2011. Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Oreskes, Naomi, and Conway, Erik M.. 2011. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
Ostrom, Elinor. 2014. Collective Action and the Evolution of Social Norms. Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research 6 (4):235252.
Pronin, Emily. 2007. Perception and Misperception of Bias in Human Judgment. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11 (1):3743.
Rabe, Barry George. 2004. Statehouse and Greenhouse: The Emerging Politics of American Climate Change Policy. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Roberts, Margaret E., Stewart, Brandon M., Tingley, Dustin, Lucas, Christopher, Leder-Luis, Jetson, Gadarian, Shana Kushner, Albertson, Bethany, and Rand, David G.. 2014. Structural Topic Models for Open-Ended Survey Responses. American Journal of Political Science 58:10641082.
Robinson, Robert J., Keltner, Dacher, Ward, Andrew, and Ross, Lee. 1995. Actual Versus Assumed Differences in Construal: ‘Naive Realism’ in Intergroup Perception and Conflict. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 68 (3):404.
Ross, Lee, Greene, David, and House, Pamela. 1977. The ‘False Consensus Effect’: An Egocentric Bias in Social Perception and Attribution Processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 13 (3):279301.
Rubinstein, Ariel. 1989. The Electronic Mail Game: Strategic Behavior Under ‘Almost Common Knowledge’. American Economic Review 79 (3):385391.
Scruggs, Lyle, and Benegal, Salil. 2012. Declining Public Concern About Climate Change: Can We Blame the Great Recession? Global Environmental Change 22 (2):505515.
Shamir, Jacob, and Shamir, Michal. 1997. Pluralistic Ignorance Across Issues and Over Time: Information Cues and Biases. Public Opinion Quarterly 61 (2):227260.
Sterman, John D. 2008. Risk Communication on Climate: Mental Models and Mass Balance. Science 322 (5901):532533.
Sterman, John D.. 2011. Communicating Climate Change Risks in a Skeptical World. Climatic Change 108 (4):811826.
Stern, Nicholas. 2007. The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Stimson, James A., MacKuen, Michael B., and Erikson, Robert S.. 1995. Dynamic Representation. American Political Science Review 89 (03):543565.
Stokes, Leah C. 2015. Electoral Backlash Against Climate Policy: A Natural Experiment on Retrospective Voting and Local Resistance to Public Policy. American Journal of Political Science 60 (4):958974.
Stroud, Natalie Jomini. 2011. Niche News: The Politics of News Choice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Taber, Charles S., and Lodge, Milton. 2006. Motivated Skepticism in the Evaluation of Political Beliefs. American Journal of Political Science 50 (3):755769.
Tausanovitch, Chris, and Warshaw, Christopher. 2014. Representation in Municipal Government. American Political Science Review 108 (3):605641.
Thomas, Kyle A., DeScioli, Peter, Haque, Omar Sultan, and Pinker, Steven. 2014. The Psychology of Coordination and Common Knowledge. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 107 (4):657.
Tingley, Dustin, and Tomz, Michael. 2013. Conditional Cooperation and Climate Change. Comparative Political Studies 47 (3):344368.
Todorov, Alexander, and Mandisodza, Anesu N.. 2004. Public Opinion on Foreign Policy: The Multilateral Public that Perceives Itself as Unilateral. Public Opinion Quarterly 68 (3):323348.
Tranter, Bruce. 2011. Political Divisions over Climate Change and Environmental Issues in Australia. Environmental Politics 20 (1):7896.
Tvinnereim, Endre, and Ivarsflaten, Elisabeth. 2016. Fossil Fuels, Employment, and Support for Climate Policies. Energy Policy 96:364371.
Tversky, A., and Kahneman, D. 1974. Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science 185:11241131.
Urpelainen, Johannes. 2012. The Strategic Design of Technology Funds for Climate Cooperation: Generating Joint Gains. Environmental Science and Policy 15 (1):92105.
Uslaner, Eric M. 2002. The Moral Foundations of Trust. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Van Boven, Leaf, Judd, Charles M., and Sherman, David K.. 2012. Political Polarization Projection: Social Projection of Partisan Attitude Extremity and Attitudinal Processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 103 (1):84.
Ward, Andrew, and Lee, Ross. 1997. Naive Realism in Everyday Life: Implications for Social Conflict and Misunderstanding. Pp. 103135 in Values and Knowledge, edited by Andrew Ward, L. Ross, E. Reed, E. Turiel and T. Brown. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Association.
Weber, Elke U., and Stern, Paul C.. 2011. Public Understanding of Climate Change in the United States. American Psychologist 66 (4):315.
Wood, B. Dan, and Vedlitz, Arnold. 2007. Issue Definition, Information Processing, and the Politics of Global Warming. American Journal of Political Science 51 (3):552568.
Young, Oran R. 2002. The Institutional Dimensions of Environmental Change: Fit, Interplay, and Scale. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Zhao, Xiaoquan. 2009. Media Use and Global Warming Perceptions a Snapshot of the Reinforcing Spirals. Communication Research 36 (5):698723.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Type Description Title
UNKNOWN
Supplementary materials

Mildenberger and Tingley Dataset
Dataset

 Unknown
PDF
Supplementary materials

Mildenberger and Tingley supplementary material
Mildenberger and Tingley supplementary material 1

 PDF (134 KB)
134 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 26
Total number of PDF views: 245 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 2161 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 4th December 2017 - 16th August 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.