UNH Research Finds Majority of Americans Trust NASA on Climate Change

June 13, 2017

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Article Source: UNH Media Relations

Seventy-three percent of Americans trust science agencies like NASA for information about climate change, according to new research released by the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH. This includes a substantial majority within every political group.

In addition, a follow-up survey by the researchers found more than 80 percent of survey respondents – again including majorities in all political groups – favor continuing or expanding NASA’s Earth observations programs rather than cutting them.

“NASA and scientists in general know they face challenges in communicating the results, reasoning and importance of their work to the public,” the researchers said. “That is true now more than ever, as the scientific community interacts with a Trump administration that has been widely dismissive of science. As NASA scientists continue to carry out and communicate Earth observations, efforts to curtail their work will not find a sympathetic public, even among partisans.”

Original data was collected for the nationwide Polar, Environment and Sciences (POLES) survey conducted just after the election and for a statewide follow-up survey in May. Similarly, high trust in NASA climate science was found on a separate survey conducted last August. The full report can be found here: https://carsey.unh.edu/publication/eyes-earth

The research was conducted by Lawrence Hamilton, UNH professor of sociology and senior Carsey fellow; Jessica Brunacini, assistant director of the Polar Learning and Responding (PoLAR) Climate Change Education Partnership at the Earth Institute of Columbia University; and Stephanie Pfirman, Hirschorn professor of environmental sciences at Barnard College, Columbia University, and director of PoLAR.

New Research Finds Trust in Scientists is Consistently Higher Among Liberals

September 3, 2015

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Trust in scientists as a source of information is higher among liberals than conservatives regardless of topic, according to new survey research on New Hampshire residents from the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. This finding contradicts widespread belief that bias against science goes in either direction depending on the topic.

The new research, conducted by Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology and a senior fellow at the Carsey School, found that 71 percent of New Hampshire residents trust scientists as a source of information on vaccines. Trust is also high regarding climate change (62 percent), nuclear power safety (69 percent) and evolution (63 percent). Trust is lower regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) at 47 percent, mostly because fewer people feel familiar enough with the topic to give an opinion.

“As expected, liberals were most likely and conservatives least likely to say that they trust scientists for information about climate change and evolution,” Hamilton said. “Contrary to the hypothesis that bias would go in the opposite direction on certain other topics, we discovered that liberals also were most likely and conservatives least likely to trust scientists about vaccines, nuclear power safety and GMOs.”

According to Hamilton, the research also found that trust in scientists on climate change, vaccines, nuclear power, evolution and GMOs is higher among respondents with a college education. Democrats expressed the most trust in scientists on both climate change and vaccines, while Tea Party supporters expressed the least.

“These results overturn the proposition that with this selection of topics we would find opposite and similarly strong ideological biases slanting in both directions,” Hamilton said. “If such opposite biases exist their effects are relatively weak.”

The newest research follows up on earlier surveys, published in the journal Sage Open last week (http://sgo.sagepub.com/content/5/3/2158244015602752), that compared only views on climate change and vaccines. The new Carsey brief includes two surveys conducted in 2015 with more than 1,000 additional interviews and three new questions on nuclear power, evolution and GMOs. Direct link to the brief: https://carsey.unh.edu/publication/views-of-science. The data used in this research was provided by the Granite State Poll, conducted by the UNH Survey Center. The work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.

Source: UNH Media Relations

Public knowledge about polar regions increases but concerns remain unchanged

February 7, 2012
polar bears near north pole

polar bears near north pole

Americans’ knowledge of facts about the polar regions of the globe has increased since 2006, but this increase in knowledge has not translated into more concern about changing polar environments, according to new research from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

“People’s knowledge of polar regions and issues improved from 2006 to 2010, consistent with hopes that the International Polar Year in 2007 would boost public awareness. Unfortunately, we did not see a companion increase in concern about the environmental changes in these regions, due, in part, to ideological and political divisions,” said Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology at UNH and a senior fellow at the Carsey Institute.

Researchers found that the public’s knowledge about the north and south polar regions showed modest gains, with the average “polar knowledge score” improved from 53 to 59 percent. But concern about climate change in the polar regions showed no up or down trend, and there were no changes in support for reserving the Antarctic for science. However, the researchers found there has been an increase in political disagreement between Democrats and Republicans on climate-related questions.

“Among the environment-related issues, all but reserving Antarctica for science show increasing political polarization — and even support for reserv­ing the Antarctic divides along party lines. Polar issues, like many other topics in science, increasingly are viewed by the public through politically tinted glasses,” Hamilton said.

The complete Carsey Institute report is available here. The research was conducted by Hamilton, Matthew Cutler, graduate student in sociology, and Andrew Schaefer, graduate student in sociology and a research assistant at the Carsey Institute.

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