The role of economic perceptions in influencing views on climate change: an experimental analysis with British respondents

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Existing analysis suggests that individuals may reduce their concern for and belief in climate change as a result of macro-economic difficulties. Such conclusions are predominantly based on repeated cross-sectional and pooled data making it difficult to separate out the effects of economic conditions from other explanatory factors. Approaching this question through experimentally priming individuals to feel a certain way about the economy has also proven difficult due to economic perceptions being difficult to alter in a survey setting [Kachi, Bernauer, & Gampfer, 2015. Climate policy in hard times: Are the pessimists right? Ecological Economics, 114, 227–241]. This article thus investigates a related question on the effect of the salience of economic perceptions on climate change views using an online question-order experiment, whereby salience denotes the prominence of the issue in the mind of the respondent. Respondents were randomly assigned to receiving an economic prompting question before or after being asked about their climate change views. The results show no effect of the prompting on belief in anthropogenic climate change, but they do show an effect of prompting on prioritization of taking urgent action to address climate change. Those with a non-positive view of the economy were less likely to support urgent action in comparison to those who considered the economy to be performing well if they were asked first about their economic evaluations. The salience of economic evaluations and the direction of such evaluations would not be significant if economic evaluations themselves were not important, and thus the findings also reveal that economic evaluations do matter.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-592
Number of pages12
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number5
Early online date18 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2018


  • Britain
  • Climate change
  • Economic perceptions
  • Survey experiments

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