Exploratory geovisualization of the character and distribution of American climate change beliefs

Authors: Johnathan Sugg*, Appalachian State University
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Cartography, Environmental Perception
Keywords: climate change, public opinion, geovisualization
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Americans remain polarized about climate change. However, recent scholarship reveals a plurality of climate change opinions among the public, with non-trivial support for a range of awareness, risk perceptions, and policy prescriptions. This study uses publicly available opinion estimates to examine the geographic variability of American climate change opinions and maps them as regions, which share similarities or differences in the character of their beliefs. The exploratory geovisual environment of a self-organizing map is used to compare the support for 56 different climate opinions across all counties in the continental US and arrange them into a spatially coherent grid of nodes. To facilitate the exploration of the patterns, a statistical cluster analysis groups together counties with the most similar climate beliefs. Choropleth maps visualize the clustering results from the self-organizing map. This study finds six groups of climate beliefs, in which member counties exhibit a distinct regionality across the US, and share similarities in the magnitude of support for specific opinions. Groups that generally exhibit high or low levels of support for climate change awareness, risk perceptions, and policy prescriptions vary in their relative support for specific opinions. The results provide a nuanced understanding of different types of climate change opinions and where they exist geographically.

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