Americans are open to new climate change policies as long as they offer environmental, social and economic benefits. This is according to social scientists Janet K. Swim and Nathaniel Geiger. According to the two, many Americans are willing to embrace positive climate change policies regardless of political affiliation.
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Swim, a professor of psychology at Penn State, and Geiger, assistant professor of communication at Indiana University, say that their studies sought to understand people’s opinions on climate issues. They found some climate policies to be more popular than others. In general, they observed that Americans are willing to accept policies that offer incentives, as opposed to policies that punish.
As they explain in Renewable Energy World, “For example, about one-third of the respondents thought the disincentives for individuals would have more social harms than benefits, while only about 10% thought the same for other policy options.”
In two recent studies, the researchers sampled responses from over 265 participants, ranging from ages 18 to 80. The participants were diverse in terms of political affiliation. The researchers found that 87% of the respondents preferred policies that increase renewable energy over those that decrease energy use. At the same time, 77% of respondents also showed support for policies that require energy reduction. Many respondents also thought that policies that promote increased green energy production, such as solar and wind, were better than policies that require people to stop using air conditioning without providing an alternative.
The researchers say they were surprised that respondents’ political affiliations did not have a big influence on their preferences. This is coming at a time when political leaders have been accused of polarizing their supporters against specific climate policies.
This study helps shed some light on how policies can be framed for public appeal. Overall, the researchers say that while “it may not always make sense for politicians to promote climate policy with the greatest public support…changing policies to increase their positive social impact – a carbon tax that rebates the proceeds to citizens is an example – can help win public support.”