Ivison: On climate change, Conservatives and Liberals encourage the narcissism of small differences

By John Ivison, Ottawa Citizen, July 30, 2018

Politics has always leaned heavily on social psychology but never more so than in these days of rabid polarization, where there is little interconnection between political tribes.

Research published this month revealed the importance of what other people think when it comes to climate change policy differences between Republicans and Democrats. Those findings have profound implications for the debate in Canada.

Social psychologists Leaf Van Boven and David Sherman conducted two surveys of more than 2,000 respondents across the United States on the issue of climate change. Their research, published in early July in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science and promoted in a New York Times op-ed last weekend, found that Republicans believed climate change is happening, threatens humans and is caused by human activity — and that reducing carbon emissions would help alleviate the problem. The findings suggested Republicans were in basic agreement with Democrats on the issue — but not on the policy solutions, which were viewed as being specific to the Democratic Party. “This tribalism leads to political fights over differences between the parties that either do not exist or are vastly exaggerated,” Van Boven and Sherman concluded. “This implies that if the tables were turned — if Republican politicians proposed a climate policy — Republican voters might support it. In our research, this is exactly what we have found.”


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