Depolarizing Environmental Policy: Identities and Public Opinion on the Environment
High levels of partisan polarization on environmental policies, and on climate change in particular, have led to policy gridlock in the United States. While most Americans rely on their partisan identities to guide their policy preferences on highly polarizing issues, other non-partisan identities may also be relevant in informing environmental policy attitudes. This dissertation investigates the role that partisan and non-partisan identities play in driving attitudes on climate change and environmental policies broadly. In a first paper, I use a survey experiment to test how identity salience influences the effectiveness of a persuasive message about climate change. I find that priming a non-partisan (parental) identity decreases partisan polarization on climate change policy support, while priming a partisan identity increases polarization. In a second paper, I use focus groups, participant observation, and interviews to identify four strategies that individuals use to reconcile conflicting identities and form attitudes on climate change. In a third paper, I use focus groups with rural voters in North Carolina to understand how rural identities inform unique environmental policy preferences. Each of these studies contributes to the broader understanding of the role that non-partisan identities play in driving environmental attitudes and offers a potential way to build more bipartisan agreement in this policy area.
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