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Study categorises Americans into six climate change attitudinal groups

A research by the Centre for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia has found that Americans can be categorised into six distinct groups based on their beliefs and attitudes about climate change.

Global Warming’s Six Americas
Global Warming’s Six Americas

Collectively tagged “Global Warming’s Six Americas”, the groups comprise the “Alarmed”, “Concerned”, “Cautious”, “Disengaged”, “Doubtful” and “Dismissive”.

The Alarmed are said to be the most engaged, are very worried about climate change, and strongly support actions to address it.

The Concerned think global warming is a significant threat but prioritise it less and are less motivated to act.

The Cautious are aware of the warming but are uncertain about its causes and are not worried about it.

The Disengaged are largely unaware of global warming, while the Doubtful doubt it is happening or human-caused and perceive it as a low risk.

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The Dismissive do not believe the planet is warming or that it is human caused. They oppose most climate policies.

According to the Centre, the Alarmed (26%) outnumber the Dismissive (7%) nearly 4 to 1. More than half (54%) of Americans are either Alarmed or Concerned, while the Doubtful and Dismissive are only 18% of the population. It added that, because conservative media organisations prominently feature Dismissive politicians, pundits and industry officials, most Americans overestimate the prevalence of Dismissive beliefs among other Americans.

The Six Americas Over Time

The study showed that there has been a significant change in the distribution of the Six Americas over the past five years. The Alarmed segment has more than doubled in size (from 11% to 26% of the U.S. adult population), while the Dismissive segment has decreased by nearly half (from 12% to 7%). Overall, Americans are becoming more worried about global warming, more engaged with the issue, and more supportive of climate solutions.

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A look back at how the Six Americas have changed over the past decade shows that the largest group, the Concerned, grew quickly from 2013 to 2015, but has declined slightly since then. The Alarmed, in contrast, experienced more rapid growth during the past five years than any of the other groups. Meanwhile, the Cautious, Doubtful, and Dismissive have been shrinking in recent years.

Communication Challenges

Momentum in Americans’ understanding of global warming’s reality, risks, and solutions is building, the study revealed, adding that the growth of the Alarmed segment, in particular, is an encouraging sign because progress on climate change requires strong, coordinated, and sustained action, and the Alarmed are the most engaged with the issue. Yet, more organisation and mobilisation are still needed.

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The Concerned and Cautious (who comprise nearly half of U.S. adults) tend to see climate change as primarily a future problem because many are unaware that global warming is already harming communities across America – including increasingly dangerous weather, growing impacts on human health, and rapidly increasing economic disasters — due to fires and storms.

Despite the continued misunderstanding, however, there is also a growing consensus – across party lines – that 100% clean energy is the right path for American prosperity.

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