This workshop brings together scholars from several social science disciplines to explore methodological innovations in surveys measuring environmental attitudes. New technologies have emerged that reduce the cost of scientific surveys, which leads to the potential to ask the same questions more frequently than before. However, the tradeoffs involved with this increased frequency are not clear. Workshop participants will discuss the scientific advances that might be uncovered with more frequent measurement, and identify the potentially unanticipated consequences of increasing frequency.

The results from this workshop will inform scientists studying environmental behavior, as well as behavior more generally, about feasibility of repeated surveys and how they might be developed and implemented most efficiently and effectively.

Project Report

We designed the project to bring together the research community working on US environmental and climate change attitudes and beliefs to review key theoretical and methodological issues in the field. This was the first community-wide discussion of its kind. Thus, most workshop attendees (especially the graduate students and junior faculty in attendance) have developed stronger communication ties with each others. In our workshop report, we identified several consensus finding that emerged from this workshop. Overall, the general conclusion of most workshop attendees was that major gaps in our social science data infrastructure are holding back considerable advancement in our understanding of the relationships between humans (individually, in groups, in organizations, and in nations) and the natural environment. Three of our specific consensus findings are as follows. First, efforts that offer relatively quick and inexpensive testing of measures and of experimental manipulations would substantially advance the field. Second, we need a user-friendly archive of existing survey data on the environment and climate change. Third, holding intensive and extensive discussions between social scientists and biophysical scientists would help us make progress toward linking social survey datasets and biophysical datasets to be able to answer key questions about the relationships between humans and the natural environment. Through efficient planning and some frugality, we saved a significant amount of money from the workshop. We used this money to pursue the first consensus finding above. Briefly, with the help of two graduate students, we pilot tested new measures of some key concepts (e.g., trust in science, pro-environmental behaviors) and experimental manipulations (e.g., different messages meant to influence citizens' views of climate change) that might be used later in larger surveys on the environment and climate change administered to nationally representative samples of US adults. We have published one peer-reviewed journal article (on the influence of political ideology on trust in science) and are preparing to submit another manuscript (on the effectiveness of different positive messages about climate change in the face of messages promoting the denial of climate change) to a special issue of another peer-reviewed journal. Both studies will further legitimate the mechanism of performing online survey experiments to pilot test new measures and experiments that may be used later in nationally representative surveys. We also are using our experiment with this NSF-funded effort as a basis for further research and for incorporating Mechanical Turk-based surveys into graduate courses.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Robert E. O'Connor
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Michigan State University
East Lansing
United States
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