Will Morality or Political Ideology Determine Attitudes to Climate Change?

Sharon Dawson, Graham Tyson

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Abstract

Climate change is a major moral and political challenge facing Australia. Public attitudes to the issue influence public policy in respect of responding to climate change. Using Moral Foundations theory, this study investigates the relationship between attitudes to climate change, individuals' moral intuitions and political affinity, using a sample of 487 Australian adults between the ages of 18 and 86. Patterns of moral intuitions scores which are higher for harm and fairness and lower for in-group, authority or purity correlated with liberalism and self reported left wing political orientation, and predicted a preference for a strong response to climate change irrespective of self interest. Patterns of moral intuitions scores which focus more equally on all five however, correlated with conservatism and self reported right wing political orientation, and predicted a preference for a reduced response. Specifically, intuitions concerned with harm and fairness were predictive of preference for stronger responses, whereas those concerned with loyalty to in-group were the opposite. Overall, moral intuitions predicted attitudes to response to climate change, but the relationship was partially mediated by political affinity. The study is further evidence of the relevance of Moral Foundations Theory to moral issues, particularly those requiring a political response.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-25
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian Community Psychologist: The official journal of the APS College Of Community Psychologists
Volume24
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

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