Public perceptions of the relationship between global warming and migration: an analysis of U.S. national survey data

Authors: Brittany Shield*, Utah State University, Peter Howe, Utah State University
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: partisan polarization, global warming, climate change, migration
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Extreme weather events and environmental stressors are projected to increase in frequency and magnitude under climate change conditions. These environmental factors will likely influence human migration. Research in the field of climate migration has primarily focused on the causal attribution of migratory movement and on understanding how migration serves as an adaptive response to climate change. However, public opinions about climate-induced migration have yet to be explored. Perceptions of climate-induced migration couple two highly politically-polarized topics in modern discourse, immigration policy and climate change. The partisan divide on climate change paired with its observable impacts emphasize the necessity to further understand potential societal implications of global climate change. This analysis seeks to investigate perceptions among the U.S. public of how climate change might affect refugee populations. Specifically, I investigate the relationship between political affiliation, belief in anthropogenic climate change, and perceptions about the number of refugees in the future. This analysis was conducted using U.S. nationally-representative survey data from 2017 (n=1,304), which examined attitudes about climate change and related impacts. In this survey 45% of participants reported that they believed refugee populations would increase if nothing is done to address global warming. Preliminary results suggest that Democrats, those with a college education, and those who believe in the anthropogenic cause of global warming are most likely to believe that the refugee population will rise due to unmitigated global warming.

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