Effects of national climate opinion maps on second-order climate change opinions

Authors: Peter Howe*, Utah State University, Kane Cook, Utah State University, Hunter Baldridge, Utah State University
Topics: Cartography, Human-Environment Geography, Environmental Perception
Keywords: climate change, public opinion, maps, perceptions, survey research
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 43
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

How do people interpret maps of public opinion? While national survey data can be "downscaled" to provide estimates of public opinion about climate change at state and sub-state scales (e.g. the Yale Climate Opinion Maps, Howe et al. 2015), there has been little research on how people interpret these estimates, which are typically visualized using national choropleth maps. For example, interpretations may be influenced by known issues inherent in the mapping of population data aggregated across arbitrary spatial units, including the modifiable areal unit problem and the ecological fallacy. Such maps provide information that may allow readers to update their second-order opinions: their opinions about others’ opinions. Accurate updating of second-order opinions could mitigate pluralistic ignorance with respect to beliefs about climate change, allowing readers to understand the broad agreement among the American population on human-caused climate change and many mitigation policies. Here we present results of survey experiment assessing the effects of viewing maps of climate change opinions on readers’ second-order opinions. After viewing a U.S. national county-level map of climate change opinion, participants increased their own second-order national estimates, but national second-order estimates remained below values measured by national surveys.

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