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January 13, 2021 Wednesday 03:20:03 PM IST

Link between climate scepticism and support for right-wing populists

International Edu News

Clear evidence of a link between people supporting right-wing political parties and climate-change scepticism has been identified in a new study from the University of Oxford and the Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences. Based on survey data and tracking web browsing histories from more than 9,000 participants in six countries, including the UK and the US, the Oxford Internet Institute study finds several significant differences in attitudes towards climate change between supporters of populist parties and non-supporters.  The study also highlights variations in the websites and content regularly used by supporters and those who do not support the parties.

The researchers found support for right-wing parties is strongly linked to scepticism on climate issues and opposition to climate-friendly policies. The study did not find a link between support for left-wing populist parties and climate change denial but did observe respondents with less interest in political issues were more likely to be climate-change sceptics.

The study, ‘Is there a link between Climate Change Scepticism and Populism?’ by Dr Pu Yan, Professor Ralph Schroeder, and Sebastian Stier, is the first of its kind to test four hypotheses concerning political attitudes, climate activism, and online media diets and consumption, to see to what extent those variables have an impact on climate change scepticism. The researchers also examined the media habits of supporters and non-supporters of populist parties, tracking over 150 million website visits over three months.    

Key findings include:
    Supporters of left-wing and right-wing populist parties are more likely to visit news websites for climate change information than non-supporters of populist parties.
    Science-related websites account for over a tenth (11%) of non-news domains visited by right-wing populist party supporters.
    Non-supporters of populist parties more likely to visit non-news website domains such as climate-related organisations websites

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