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Public Opinion & Climate Change

Summer 2023

Project Background

Public Opinion and Climate Change is a book project on which I working. The book will consider the following: 1) The effect of public opinion regarding climate change on policymakers (notably the president and Congress); 2) the historical trends in American public opinion regarding climate change; 3) how informed or knowledgeable the public is regarding issues surrounding climate change; 4) the differences that exist between different generations in terms of opinion and knowledge about climate change, and; 5) how opinion and knowledge about climate change contributes to individual behavior.

One of the central question is, "What would evidence of the power of public opinion on climate policy look like?" In principle, public opinion can play a decisive role in pushing Congress & the president in one of two ways. Either voters can switch votes to pro-Climate representatives (mostly Democrats) or change the majority or legislators' fears of electoral defeat can change their behavior in office (e.g., Republicans become pro-climate action). So, we can analyze whether either of these phenomena are true. For example, we might see that public opinion data may not be strong enough to push Congress into climate action but, despite these findings, public opinion could be used to justify climate action after Congress & the president do act.

While much of the book will rely on existing public opinion data (from Gallup, Pew, etc.) I will be working to construct and administer my own public opinion survey.

Student Role

This project will generate a lot of opportunity for an undergraduate to work with me from research of existing literature to quantitative analysis, drafting short reports of results and producing graphical representations of the results. In particular, as I build the survey instrument, I could use research assistance in conducting reviews of existing literature to generate possible survey items to include. Once administration of the survey is complete, and depending the student's familiarity with data, the student could assist in cleaning the data and conducting some statistical analyses and producing graphical representation of some of statistical output and short summaries of the findings. There will also be regular research meetings with my research collaborators in which the undergraduate researcher may participate.

Student Learning Outcomes and Benefits

This experience is an ideal opportunity for a student interested in research and, and particular, students who hope to apply to graduate school. Student outcomes and benefits include how to identify and use relevant previous research to help support current research questions, consider what survey items are important to ask and how they should be worded and the survey instrument constructed, work in collaboration with others to identify research questions, methodologies, and overcome any hurdles in the research process, and develop communication and presentation skills. As research concludes there is opportunity for reflection and discussion of the proverbial "next steps" in the research process.

Juliet Carlisle

Social & Behavioral Science
Political Science

As a mentor, I try to let the student's goals help structure our relationship. Part of that process is to build an understanding of the student, where they are in their intellectual and professional development and their dreams for the future. The more I understand about the student, I can personalize my approach with the overarching objectives-identify related opportunities, develop skills, ask questions, understand and overcome obstacles, clear communication, and productive collaboration. I also like to share my own how I have approached research and overcome my own shortcomings and frustrations as my own experiences can provide guidance for a young researcher.

I will encourage mentees to apply for awards, fellowships, and similar opportunities and will also provide information on where to find such opportunities. For my mentees, I will provide letters of recommendation in consult with the mentees and from documents and files provided to me by each mentee.

With each mentee, I schedule regular meetings to keep progress moving forward. Prior to the meetings, I request mentees provide any drafts of research, quantitative output, or documents for my review, which allows me to create a more productive and structured meeting. As well, it is essential for mentees to prepare for meetings and as such, I ask that mentees maintain a list of ongoing issues of concern so I am aware of issues or problems that the student is having with research.