Gender Differences in Public Understanding of Climate Change

Read the full story from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

While political views play a strong role in Americans’ opinions on climate change, there are many other individual, social, and cultural factors that influence public understanding of the issue. Here we explore how views on climate change differ between men and women. A large body of research shows a small—but consistent—gender gap in environmental views and climate change opinions. On average, women are slightly more likely than men to be concerned about the environment and have stronger pro-climate opinions and beliefs. Scholars have proposed several explanations for this gender gap, including differences in gender socialization and resulting value systems (e.g., altruism, compassion), perceptions of general risk and vulnerability, and feminist beliefs including commitment to egalitarian values of fairness and social justice. Some researchers also note that some of the strongest gender differences are found in concern about specific environmental problems, particularly local problems that pose health risks.

In our research, we find that, although a similar proportion of men and women think global warming is happening and is human-caused, women consistently have higher risk perceptions that global warming will harm them personally, and will harm people in the U.S., plants and animals, and future generations of people (Fig. 1). Also compared with men, a greater proportion of women worry about global warming, think that it is currently harming the U.S., and support certain climate change mitigation policies, specifically regulating CO 2 as a pollutant and setting strict CO 2 limits on coal power plants.

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