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Sierra Daily

Jul 27, 2011

Know-It-All White Guys

Which segment of the population is guaranteed to be most completely out-to-lunch on the issue of global climate change? You guessed it: conservative white guys. According to a forthcoming study by Aaron M. McCright of Michigan State University in East Lansing and Riley E. Dunlap of Oklahoma State University in the journal Global Environmental Change  (available online July 22), it's not just by a little bit either: These guys are four times as likely as other adult Americans to believe that global warming "will never happen." And here's another finding (reported in Conservation Magazine) that you won't find surprising: "These differences are even greater for those conservative white males who self-report understanding global warming very well.”

Notably, the researchers say that CWMs [conservative white males] also tended to assert a stronger understanding of global warming than other adults – and those who said they understood it best were the most likely to be the strongest deniers. “This, of course, seems an untenable self-assessment,” the authors write, “given that conservative white males are more likely than are other adults to reject the current scientific consensus.”

The name for this phenomenon is "epistemic closure"--it's what happens when all your sources of information come from those who agree with you. If your main source of information is Rush Limbaugh, you're going to think you know a lot about climate change--and be completely wrong.

--Paul Rauber

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