Pew: Evangelicals Little Different from Rest of Public on Climate Change


Just how important is it to engage religious audiences on climate change? As a newly released Pew analysis indicates (above) there is not much variation in climate perceptions across religious affiliation. Most notably, among Evangelicals, a plurality or 34% believe that global warming is happening and is due to human activities. Moreover, the gap between Evangelicals and the religiously unaffiliated on acceptance of human-induced global warming is only roughly 20%.

Considering that the gap on the same question between college educated Republicans and college educated Democrats is a striking 50%, these poll results show a relative common concern across religious groups on climate change. In fact, the slight difference between Evangelicals and other religious groups on perceptions of climate change is more likely to be because of the confounding influence of partisan identity rather than specific religious identity.

As scientists such as EO Wilson and Eric Chivian have argued, engaging with Evangelicals on global warming is central to collective action on the problem and these survey results provide support for this view. For more, see the recent article I published at the journal Environment.

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Ha. If you're rounding numbers and the actual number is 23%, you round to 25, not down to 20%.

Second, what test did you run on the numbers to determine that 23% is insignificant?

Some things you haven't mentioned: Evangelical's represent the greatest amount of a) cognitive dissonance/ignorance and b) flat rejection of global warming along sectarian lines. In fact, your 34% plurality fades away if you add those two color, gray and orange (42%), which either reject or are ignorant about the issue. That's a 12% increase from the Catholics' 30%. And both those groups have a conservative/republican majority.

I swear I wrote a comment on this quite a while ago. Oh, well...

By Heraclides (not verified) on 30 Apr 2009 #permalink

I also find it interesting that of all the population segments featured here, black protestants have the most widespread acceptance that the Earth is warming. Yet they are also the most likely to believe that the warming is due to natural causes. Would be interesting to find out what the major sources of information on global warming are for this community.


By John Kotcher (not verified) on 16 Apr 2009 #permalink

Matthew C. Nisbet: In fact, the slight difference between Evangelicals and other religious groups on perceptions of climate change is more likely to be because of the confounding influence of partisan identity rather than specific religious identity.

Based on a discussion I had with one evangelical on the topic, I believe there is a related confounding factor. Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians are significantly more likely than other sects to take Biblical Inerrancy as a tenet. Much of the basic evidence for climate cycles involves ice cores showing patterns from up to 100000 years ago. This conflicts with the literalist view of a 6000 year old earth; as such, they reject conclusions derived from such interpretations of evidence as working from a flawed premise.

Nitpick: while the overall trends appear to have the same general trend, to say that one group is "little different" to the others, you really ought to be estimating the expected variation and asking if the differences between the groups statistically they fall within that. I presume these are buried in the full study on the linked page as neither your article nor the linked page seems to present this. Likewise, claiming that something is likely to be due to some particular confounding effect really wants reasons/evidence.

If you were to consider that the religions are presented in order of increasing "strength" as you progress down the graph, there superficially looks like there is a trend for decreased belief in human activity as a cause the "stronger" the religious belief. While "strength" of religious belief is dodgy thing to be measuring, this sort of correlation is useful to reveal trends that are otherwise obscured.

You're right, John, it's interesting how black Protestants seem to buck the trend in having a strong favouring of thinking that the cause is natural patterns, seemingly at the expense of 'No'. (Confidence estimates would give me a more confidence in this, and personally it suggests that there is something different in this group, perhaps the nature of their religious beliefs.)

I'd also comment that the 'natural' v. 'unknown cause' might cause some problems as there is no category for "by the hand of G-d", as it were, and people with religious beliefs could in principle opt for either of these two, depending on if the read 'natural' to include their god(s) or not.

I find most of these sorts of surveys have too many confounders and the questions insufficiently nuanced to capture all of the groups surveyed usually for me to read too much into them unless the trends are very lop-sided.

By Heraclides (not verified) on 25 Apr 2009 #permalink