The Rise of Global Warming Skepticism: Exploring Affective Image Associations

This article explores how affective image associations to global warming have changed over time. Four nationally representative surveys of the American public were conducted between 2002 and 2010 to assess public global warming risk perceptions, policy preferences, and behavior. Affective images (positive or negative feelings and cognitive representations) were collected and content analyzed. The results demonstrate a large increase in “naysayer” associations, indicating extreme skepticism about the issue of climate change. Multiple regression analyses found that holistic affect and “naysayer” associations were more significant predictors of global warming risk perceptions than cultural worldviews or sociodemographic variables, including political party and ideology. The results demonstrate the important role affective imagery plays in judgment and decision-making processes, how these variables change over time, and how global warming is currently perceived by the American public.

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