Policies designed to solve environmental problems are unlikely to succeed unless they have broad public support, but the motives for mass support are poorly understood. The problem is global in scope, but most of the relevant public opinion research done so far has been carried out in advanced industrial societies, usually Western democracies. Moreover, much of this research is limited to the tip of the iceberg, focusing on what people think about environmental problems without probing into why they think it or how deeply they are committed.
The analysis of mass attitudes toward environmental problems in this article uses evidence from representative national surveys of countries representing the entire developmental spectrum, from rich to poor nations, including not only Western democracies but authoritarian regimes and recently emerging democracies from the former communist bloc. The data come from the 1990–93 World Values survey, carried out in 43 countries containing 70% of the world's population. Our goal is to determine why given publics are—or are not—sufficiently concerned about environmental problems that they are willing to make financial sacrifices and undertake other actions in order to help protect the environment.
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