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Eliminating the Local Warming Effect (WP-14-26)

James Druckman

A growing body of work shows that perceived deviations in daily local temperatures alter individuals’ global warming beliefs and concerns (e.g., Krosnick et al. 2006, Semenza et al. 2008, Li et al. 2011, Zaval et al. 2014). Little research, however, explores the conditions under which this “local warming” effect occurs. Here, Druckman presents an experiment that shows how a simple prompt—that reminds individuals to remember how the weather felt over the past year—eliminates the local warming effect. Specifically, the prompt severs the relationship between perceptions of the daily temperature with estimates of last year’s temperature deviations, which is the basis on which many base their global warming opinions. While the results do not reveal the frequency that local warming effects occur overall, they do demonstrate the limits of the effect. Additionally, the findings suggest ways to rhetorically counteract the effect.

James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and Associate Director and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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