Understanding Environmental Public Opinion by Dimension: How Heuristic Processing Mitigates High Information Costs on Complex Issues

Cynthia R. Rugeley, John David Gerlach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Public opinion matters in environmental policy making. This study examines how individuals form opinions on three distinct environmental topics-climate change, the importance of environmental protection relative to job creation, and wilderness protection. Previous research focusing on environmental concern has yielded conflicting or inconclusive results. We argue that how citizens form attitudes within the environmental domain varies across environmental dimensions and that high information costs cause citizens to engage in heuristic processing to form their opinions. We empirically test our hypothesis by analyzing original data collected from the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey. We find that with more complex issues, citizens rely on familiar shortcuts such as party identification, ideology, and the media. With less complex issues, demographic factors are predictors of attitudes, lending support to arguments that citizens use familiar shortcuts when processing political and policy information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)444-470
Number of pages27
JournalPolitics and Policy
Volume40
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012

Keywords

  • Climate Change
  • Environmental Policy
  • Environmental Protection
  • Environmental Public Opinion
  • Heuristics
  • Information Costs
  • Policy Making
  • Political Affiliation
  • Wilderness Protection

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