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UNH professor researches views on climate change

There are less than two weeks left until the 2016 Election Day. After more than a year of campaigning and billions of dollars spent, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will face off against each other as voters go to the ballot box. What has been a contentious campaign will end with one final winner who, once in office, will have to face the issue of global climate change.
Climate change has been a point of political tension for years. Although the general acceptance of the evidence for climate change has been on the rise, the divide between Clinton and Trump voters is severe. According to research collected up until August 2016 by the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy, 63 percent of voters said they believe climate change is occurring right now and that humans are the cause. This has steadily risen over the decades, but looking at the Clinton/Trump divide, it is rather different.
Among Clinton voters, 86 percent said that climate change is occurring and is manmade. Compare that with only about 30 percent of Trump voters who acknowledge climate change as a negative effect of long-term human consumption. These results do not vary when looking at the Granite State, where 87 percent of Clinton voters accept the science while only 32 percent of Trump voters do. The wide range of opinion has mainly to do with where these opposing political factions receive their information and whether or not they believe scientists. The two main sources that Trump voters go to are scientists and Fox News, while Clinton voters are typically more tuned into scientists and websites.
The progression of voter support in the United States for the scientific evidence of climate change has been changing most since 2010, according to UNH Professor Lawrence Hamilton. UNH’s research into voter support of climate change and other scientific areas has been going on for seven years, culminating this year in research piece that measures American opinion on the importance of climate change, called “Where Is the North Pole?”
One main reason for the political shift on the subject of climate change has to do with how people are learning. The main indicator of a switch in thought about climate change has to do with people’s interactions with scientists either in person, over social media, on websites and in the news.
“What I think is happening, is the scientists speaking in a lot of different ways are gradually getting through to the public,” Hamilton said.
Liberals and conservatives both see scientists, especially NASA, as the most reputable standard for information about climate change, but their second choices are quite different. The second option for liberals is scientific websites, while the second option for conservatives is Fox News.
“One of the first [things that stand out] is just how stable these beliefs are. How basic they are in people’s personalities. And how unconnected they are in many cases, from knowledge. In a recent survey we asked where the North Pole was and most people don’t know, and yet they have strong opinions on climate change,” Hamilton said.
The day following the election, Hamilton will begin interviewing Trump supporters about climate change to see if Republicans changed at all in their opinions due to the Republican nominee. The research should be available in early December.

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