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Yale Climate Opinion Maps – Canada


Overview

Public opinion on climate change is an important input into the decision-making process for the development of policies to reduce climate change impacts or prepare for these impacts. Yet opinions can vary widely depending on where people live. So why rely on just a single national average to understand public responses to climate change at the provincial and local levels?

Public opinion polling is generally done at the national level because local level polling is very costly and time consuming. Our team, however, has developed a geographic and statistical model to downscale national public opinion results to the province and riding level.

We can now estimate and visualize differences in opinion across the country, allowing a clearer picture of the diversity of Canadian perceptions, attitudes, and support for policy to come into focus. For instance, we estimate that nationally, 77% of Canadians perceive that climate change is happening. Meanwhile, only 56% in the Souris–Moose Lake riding in Saskatchewan share this view, compared to 91% in the riding of Halifax.

Explore the maps by clicking on your province or riding and compare the results across questions and geographic areas. Beneath each map are bar charts displaying the results for every question at whichever geographic scale is currently selected. See the methods page for more information about error estimates.

This research and website are funded in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Société et Culture, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Energy Foundation, and the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.

We are very grateful to Anthony Leiserowitz, Christopher Borick, Barry Rabe for their assistance with and support of the project. Additionally, funding for individual survey waves was provided by the Ministère des Relations internationals, l’Institut de l’énergie Trottier, Sustainable Prosperity, Canada 2020, the Public Policy Forum, and la Chaire d’études politiques et économiques américaines.

For further questions about these maps or what they mean, please see our Frequently Asked Questions tab (above).

Methods

This site provides estimates of the Canadian adult population’s climate change beliefs and policy preferences at provincial and electoral district levels – a new source of high-resolution data on public opinion that can inform Canadian decision-making, policy, and education initiatives.

The estimates are derived from a statistical model using multilevel regression with post-stratification (MRP) on a large national survey dataset (n>5,000), along with demographic and geographic population characteristics.
The estimates use the same validated technique deployed by Howe et al. (2015) to estimate local-scale US public opinion. More information can be found here:

Howe, P., Mildenberger, M., Marlon, J.R., and Leiserowitz, A., (2015) “Geographic variation in opinions on climate change at state and local scales in the USA,” Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2583.

These US estimates were validated using three different methods. First, cross-validation analyses were conducted within the dataset. The dataset was divided into two sets of respondents, with one part used to run the model and the other kept aside for validation. The model estimates were then compared to the results of the set aside respondents to directly quantify the percentage of correct answers the model predicted. These cross-validation tests were repeated multiple times using different sample sizes and dividing the data in different ways. Second, the model estimates derived from the full dataset were compared to the results of independent, representative state- and city-level surveys. Third, some model estimates were compared with third-party survey data collected by other researchers in previous years.

We undertake Canada-specific validation using the cross-validation technique deployed in the US case. For more details, please see the online working paper:

Mildenberger, M., Howe, P.D. , Lachapelle, E., Stokes, L.C., Marlon, J., and Gravelle, T. “The distribution of climate change public opinion in Canada.” (February 15 2016). Available here.

Survey Question Wording

Model estimates in the maps were derived from public responses to the following survey questions. The response categories for many questions were collapsed into a single variable for mapping. For example, for the question measuring how much respondents support a carbon tax, “strongly support” and “somewhat support” were combined into a single measure of “Support.” Likewise “Somewhat oppose” and “Strongly oppose” were combined into a single measure of “Oppose.” We differentiate between individuals who believe that the Earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity, and the larger set of people who believe the Earth is getting warmer mostly or partly because of human activity.

Individuals who responded “Don’t know” or who did not answer the question were not modeled separately and appear as gray segments within the bar charts.

Earth is getting warmer
“From what you’ve read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past four decades?”

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know [volunteered]

Earth is getting warmer partly or mostly because of human activity
[If yes, solid evidence] “Is the earth getting warmer because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels or mostly because of natural patterns in the earth’s environment?”

  • Human activity
  • A combination [volunteered]
  • Natural patterns
  • Not sure [volunteered]
  • [Answered No to “Earth getting warmer?” question]

Earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity
[If yes, solid evidence] “Is the earth getting warmer because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels or mostly because of natural patterns in the earth’s environment?”

  • Human activity
  • A combination [volunteered]
  • Natural patterns
  • Not sure [volunteered]
  • [Answered No to “Earth getting warmer?” question]

Support cap and trade system
“There is a proposed system called cap and trade where the government issues permits limiting the amount of greenhouse gases companies can put out. If a company exceeds their limit, they will have to buy more permits. If they don’t use all of their permits, they will be able to sell or trade them to others who exceed their cap. The idea is that companies will find ways to put out less greenhouse gases because that would be cheaper than buying permits.”

“Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose this type of system for your province?”

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose
  • Not sure / Refused [volunteered]

Support increasing taxes on carbon based fuels
“Another way to lower greenhouse gas emissions is to increase taxes on carbon based fuels such as coal, oil, gasoline and natural gas. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose this type of system?”

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose
  • Not sure / Refused [volunteered]

The YPCCC is pleased to offer our downscaled climate change opinion estimates to the public. These data are distributed under the following terms of use.

This is a legal agreement between you, the end-user (“User”) and Yale University on behalf of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (the “YPCCC”).  By downloading the survey data made available on this web site (“Data”) you are agreeing to be bound by the terms and conditions of this agreement.  If you do not agree to be bound by these terms, do not download or use the Data.

The YPCCC hereby grants to the User a non-exclusive, revocable, limited, non-transferable license to use the Data solely for (1) research, scholarly or academic purposes, (2) the internal use of your business, or (3) your own personal non-commercial use.  You may not reproduce, sell, rent, lease, loan, distribute or sublicense or otherwise transfer any Data, in whole or in part, to any other party, or use the Data to create any derived product for resale, lease or license.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, you may incorporate limited portions of the Data in scholarly, research or academic publications or for the purposes of news reporting, provided you acknowledge the source of the Data (with express references to the YPCCC, as well as the complete title of the report) and include the following legend:

The YPCCC bears no responsibility for the analyses or interpretations of the data presented here.

THE DATA IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, ARISING BY LAW OR OTHERWISE, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO WARRANTIES OF COMPLETENESS,  NON-INFRINGEMENT, ACCURACY, MERCHANTABILITY, OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.  THE USER ASSUMES ALL RISK ASSOCIATED WITH USE OF THE DATA AND AGREES THAT IN NO EVENT SHALL YALE BE LIABLE TO YOU OR ANY THIRD PARTY FOR ANY INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, PUNITIVE OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, DAMAGES FOR THE INABILITY TO USE EQUIPMENT OR ACCESS DATA, LOSS OF BUSINESS, LOSS OF REVENUE OR PROFITS, BUSINESS INTERRUPTIONS, LOSS OF INFORMATION OR DATA, OR OTHER FINANCIAL LOSS, ARISING OUT OF THE USE OF, OR INABILITY TO USE, THE DATA BASED ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, BREACH OF CONTRACT, BREACH OF WARRANTY, TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE), OR OTHERWISE, EVEN IF USER HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.

The YPCCC has taken measures to ensure that the Data is devoid of information that could be used to identify individuals (e.g., names, telephone numbers, email addresses, social security numbers) who participated in or who were the subject of any research surveys or studies used to collect the Data (“Personally Identifying Information”).  However, in the event that you discover any such Personally Identifying Information in the Data, you shall immediately notify the YPCCC and refrain from using any such Personally Identifying Information.

This license will terminate (1) automatically without notice from the YPCCC if you fail to comply with the provisions of this agreement, or (2) upon written notice (by e-mail, U.S. or otherwise) from the YPCCC.  Upon termination of this agreement, you agree to destroy all copies of any Data, in whole or in part and in any and all media, in your custody and control.

This agreement shall be governed by, construed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Connecticut. You further agree to submit to the jurisdiction and venue of the courts of the State of Connecticut for any dispute relating to this Agreement.

Please use the following citation in any work that makes use of the data and documentation as follows:

Mildenberger, M., Howe, P.D. , Lachapelle, E., Stokes, L.C., Marlon, J.R., and Gravelle, T. “The distribution of climate change public opinion in Canada.” (February 15 2016). Available here.

Direct any questions to the YPCCC at climatechange@yale.edu.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What do these maps depict?
The maps depict estimates of the percentage of Canadians (age 18 and over) who hold particular attitudes, perceptions, and policy preferences on the problem of climate change. The estimates were generated from a statistical model that incorporates actual survey responses from a large dataset of >5,000 individuals that have been collected since 2011. The actual survey responses were combined with demographic data from Statistics Canada to estimate opinions based on information such as gender, education and language; they also take into account changes in public opinion over time.
Where do the survey data underlying the estimates come from?
The data underlying the maps come from a large national survey dataset ( >5,000 respondents) collected between January 2011 and September 2015 by random digit dialing telephone surveys administered to landline and mobile phone listings. Reports from the individual surveys are available here: http://www.ericklachapelle.com/publications/.
How accurate are the estimates?
No model is perfect and there are uncertainties in the model estimates. The model uncertainties are smaller at broad geographic scales (e.g., the provincial level), and are larger at finer geographic scales (e.g., at the riding level). The model estimates also tend to be conservative, so geographic areas with extremely high or low measures are not estimated as well as areas with values closer to the national average for each survey question. The average margin of error is ±6 percentage points for the provincial-level estimates and ±7 percentage points for the riding-level estimates (at the 95% confidence level).
Do the maps account for differences in population density across the country?
No, the maps depict the estimated proportion of people within each geographic area who would answer each question as indicated. We have not adjusted the maps based on population density differences. It is important to keep in mind that some geographic areas may be large, but have few residents (e.g., Northern Saskatchewan), while other geographic areas may be small, but have many residents (e.g., the GTA).

The type of map used in this tool is called a choropleth map, which means the colors on the maps reflect the percentage of the population in a given geographic unit. These kinds of maps are used to represent everything from election results to census and economic data (e.g., per capita income or unemployment rates).

Why aren’t there any data for Canadian territories and Labrador?
The public opinion data we use to model the distribution of opinion across Canada excluded phone samples from people living in Canada’s territories. Unfortunately, it is not possible to accurately infer Northern beliefs from our current opinion dataset.
Can I use the data?
Yes. We encourage you to explore the maps and use the results in your own work. The data are available on our Data Download page so that you can do your own analyses and create your own visualizations. If you publish an academic paper using these data please acknowledge the source by using the following citation:
Mildenberger, M., Howe, P.D., Lachapelle, E., Stokes, L.C., Marlon, J., and Gravelle, T. “The distribution of climate change public opinion in Canada.” (February 15 2016).
Available hereIf you publish a news article, visualization or blog post using these data, please include a link back to this website.
When will the data be updated next?
The estimates will be updated periodically when new Canadian climate opinion survey results are released.
How do you measure the human-caused variable?
There was some confusion in the early media reports about the extent to which Canadians believe that climate change is human-caused. The confusion stemmed from differences among public responses to the question of whether climate change is partly or mostly caused by human activities. Our study indicates that 44% of Canadians believe that climate change is mostly human-caused while another 17% think that climate change is at least partly caused by humans. We model these two groups separately in the interests of transparently providing detailed data to the public on the geographic distribution of climate beliefs. To reduce any confusion, we have updated the web tool to make clear that the percentage of Canadians who do not believe climate change is driven by human activity at all is 39%.