Differences between Conservatives and Liberals in Information-Seeking Behavior and Perceived Risks Associated with Climate-Driven Changes to Local Forest Conditions

Jordan W. Smith Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, and Center for Geospatial Analytics, North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Karly Bitsura-Meszaros Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, and Center for Geospatial Analytics, North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Rosemary Keane Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, and Center for Geospatial Analytics, North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Abstract

Ideological value sets have the potential to shape individuals’ preferences as well as their psychological and behavioral responses to new information. Being socially constructed, ideologies are likely to be formed and modified through the exchanges individuals have in their established information and communication networks. This study examined whether or not individuals’ political ideologies and their access to climate-related information are related to several key factors influencing their perceived capacity to adapt to climate-driven changes to local forest conditions. The key factors investigated include: perceived risk; the willingness to learn about potential impacts; the willingness to plan for variable climate futures; and a general perception of self-efficacy. Data come from a mail survey completed by 420 full-time residents living in three amenity-rich forest-related communities in western North Carolina (United States). The results suggest individuals’ political ideologies are related to some, but not all, of the information sources asked about. The results also suggest political ideologies are related to perceived risk, with conservatives perceiving climate-driven changes to local forest conditions as more severe relative to liberals. These findings have several implications regarding the effective dissemination of information related to how increasingly variable climate conditions may affect local forest conditions.

Current affiliation: Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, and Department of Environment and Society, Utah State University, Logan, Utah.

Corresponding author address: Jordan W. Smith, Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, and Department of Environment and Society, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322. E-mail: green.olympia@gmail.com

Abstract

Ideological value sets have the potential to shape individuals’ preferences as well as their psychological and behavioral responses to new information. Being socially constructed, ideologies are likely to be formed and modified through the exchanges individuals have in their established information and communication networks. This study examined whether or not individuals’ political ideologies and their access to climate-related information are related to several key factors influencing their perceived capacity to adapt to climate-driven changes to local forest conditions. The key factors investigated include: perceived risk; the willingness to learn about potential impacts; the willingness to plan for variable climate futures; and a general perception of self-efficacy. Data come from a mail survey completed by 420 full-time residents living in three amenity-rich forest-related communities in western North Carolina (United States). The results suggest individuals’ political ideologies are related to some, but not all, of the information sources asked about. The results also suggest political ideologies are related to perceived risk, with conservatives perceiving climate-driven changes to local forest conditions as more severe relative to liberals. These findings have several implications regarding the effective dissemination of information related to how increasingly variable climate conditions may affect local forest conditions.

Current affiliation: Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, and Department of Environment and Society, Utah State University, Logan, Utah.

Corresponding author address: Jordan W. Smith, Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, and Department of Environment and Society, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322. E-mail: green.olympia@gmail.com
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