Assessing climate change beliefs: Response effects of question wording and response alternatives

Murni Greenhill, Zoe Leviston, Rosemary Leonard, Iain Walker

To date, there is no ‘gold standard’ on how to best measure public climate change beliefs. We report a study (N = 897) testing four measures of climate change causation beliefs, drawn from four sources: the CSIRO, Griffith University, the Gallup poll, and the Newspoll. We found that question wording influences the outcome of beliefs reported. Questions that did not allow respondents to choose the option of believing in an equal mix of natural and anthropogenic climate change obtained different results to those that included the option. Age and belief groups were found to be important predictors of how consistent people were in reporting their beliefs. Response consistency gave some support to past findings suggesting climate change beliefs reflect something deeper in the individual belief system. Each belief question was assessed against five criterion variables commonly used in climate change literature. Implications for future studies are discussed.

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