Climate Science or Politics? Disentangling the Roles of Citizen Beliefs and Support for Energy in the United States

Published version


To potentially mitigate further climate change, the US needs to move away from fossil fuels and towards carbonfree sources of energy. The issue of climate change is highly polarized, which has led to beliefs about climate change becoming entangled with political beliefs. Yet, public support for decreasing the use of fossil fuels and increasing renewable sources is high. In this paper, we use an original survey of about 1300 respondents to examine the potential for the entanglement of political beliefs, climate change beliefs, and energy preferences. We find that the majority of respondents support a decreased use of fossil fuels, a slight increase of nuclear energy, and a large increase of renewable sources; however, conservative Republicans prefer smaller decreases of fossil fuels and smaller increases in renewables. Additionally, we find that as respondents increasingly accept the scientific consensus on climate change, they support larger decreases in fossil fuels and larger increases in renewable energy. Finally, using mediation analysis we find that climate beliefs mediate the relationship between political beliefs and energy preferences for conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, but not those with more moderate political beliefs. These findings point to the potential for energy preferences to become entangled in climate change as a result of elite discourse.


Path Analysis of Political Beliefs and Energy Preferences Mediated by Climate Change Beliefs

BibTeX citation

  title = {Climate {{Science}} or {{Politics}}? {{Disentangling}} the {{Roles}} of {{Citizen Beliefs}} and {{Support}} for {{Energy}} in the {{United States}}},
  shorttitle = {Climate {{Science}} or {{Politics}}?},
  author = {Hawes, Rachel and Nowlin, Matthew C.},
  year = {2022},
  month = mar,
  journal = {Energy Research \& Social Science},
  volume = {85},
  pages = {102419},
  issn = {22146296},
  doi = {10.1016/j.erss.2021.102419}