UNH Research Finds Trump and Clinton Supporters Differ on Science

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

DURHAM, N.H. – Donald Trump supporters are less likely than Hillary Clinton supporters to trust scientists for information about climate change, to think that climate change is causing problems now, or to support action to reduce its risks, according to new survey research reported by the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. Trump supporters are also less likely to know or accept scientific observations that CO2 levels are increasing, or that Arctic ice is decreasing.

The report is based on the first Polar, Environment, and Science Survey, conducted in August by Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology and Carsey fellow. This survey explored Americans’ perceptions about climate change and their basic knowledge concerning the north and south polar regions. Overall, more than 60 percent of those surveyed agree that human activities are changing the Earth’s climate. And most people (72 percent) trust science agencies such as NASA to provide them with information about climate change. Friends and family ranked second (36 percent) for information about climate change, indicating that peer to peer communication plays an important role as well.

According to the survey, less than one in five Americans knows that their country includes territory with thousands of people living in it in the Arctic, and less than half understand where the North and South Poles are located.

“These results highlight Americans’ limited knowledge about polar regions, including location of the North and South Poles and the fact that a large part of Alaska, with towns and industry, lies north of the Arctic Circle,” Hamilton said. “Public uncertainty on facts like this points toward areas where better education and science communication could help to improve understanding.”

A majority of those surveyed recognize that the Arctic sea ice is declining and carbon dioxide levels are rising, but knowledge of these climate-related facts shows partisan divisions. Although such divisions occur on every question related to climate, among each candidate’s supporters there is a range of views. For example, one-third of Trump supporters accept that human activities are changing the climate, and almost 40 percent think that renewable energy should be a high priority. They count among the 63 or 64 percent overall holding these views.

“Despite sharp political divisions, there is broad and rising public recognition of climate-change problems and of the need to shift our energy use in response,” Hamilton said.

The Carsey report can be found here: https://carsey.unh.edu/publication/north-pole

A list of the survey questions and results is posted here: https://carsey.unh.edu/sites/carsey.unh.edu/files/media/pdf/poles_question_list.pdf

The Carsey School of Public Policy conducts research, leadership development, and engaged scholarship relevant to public policy. They address pressing challenges, striving for innovative, responsive, and equitable solutions at all levels of government and in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

The University of New Hampshire is a flagship research university that inspires innovation and transforms lives in our state, nation and world. More than 16,000 students from all 50 states and 71 countries engage with an award-winning faculty in top ranked programs in business, engineering, law, health and human services, liberal arts and the sciences across more than 200 programs of study. UNH’s research portfolio includes partnerships with NASA, NOAA, NSF and NIH, receiving more than $100 million in competitive external funding every year to further explore and define the frontiers of land, sea and space.